All Saints, Rome (Exterior)

All Saints, Via del Babuino, Rome


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: All Saints
Location: Via del Babuino, Rome
Date of visit: Sunday, 8 September 2013, 10:30am

The building

An English Neo-Gothic church, very much in contrast with the extravagance of baroque Rome, built on the ruins of a former convent. It was the last commission of George Edmund Street, who designed the Royal Courts of Justice in London and a great number of churches. Construction started in 1880 and the church was completed in 1887. The spire was completed exactly 50 years later, in 1937. The stained glass windows are very Anglican and rather fine.

The church

The congregation is made up mostly of English ex-pats, but there are also some Americans and Canadians.

The neighborhood

The church is located in Via del Babuino, between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. Audrey Hepburn's house in the movie Roman Holiday is across the street and this used to be the English neighbourhood in Rome. The Keats-Shelley Memorial House and the oldest English tea house in Rome are close to the church, apparently because this is supposed to be the neighbourhood with the best running water in the city.

The cast

The Revd Dana English, assistant curate, and the Ven. Jonathan Boardman, chaplain of the parish and archdeacon of Italy and Malta.

What was the name of the service?

Choral Eucharist

How full was the building?

It was about a third full, with about 50 people present. Many regulars were still on holiday, but there were plenty of visitors.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Two ladies handed me the hymnal with the service leaflets and said "Good morning. Welcome."

Was your pew comfortable?

It was a chair, like in many English country parish churches – the ones with the upholstered cushions. It was quite comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Very quiet. There was some chatting in the back, which neither distracted the ushers from their jobs nor those who were praying. As the organist began the Bach prelude, the church fell silent.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Extracts from Common Worship and the New English Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?

A great English organ of the firm Conacher & Company of Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England.

Did anything distract you?

A couple of children were quite lively and the Italian lady in front of me arrived quite late – during the sermon! But these kinds of things happen in every church.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

High church at its best. Not to be confused with Anglo-Catholicism, this was proper English high church. The vestments and the frontal were really stunning, and I would guess (given the place and the familiar patterns) were by the London firm Watts & Co. The music was superb as well; it couldn't have been more Anglican than it was, from the Anglican chant to the hymns, from the prelude to the postlude. The style was formal and I was happy to notice that nobody applauded after the postlude. Bravo! Very Anglican.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

8 – A very interesting and loving style, both serious and ironic, simultaneously theologically elevated and down to earth. I am not a big fan of long sermons. If I liked them I would have been a Baptist!

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

It was a difficult topic, but Father Jonathan dealt beautifully and in occasionally a funny way with the war in Syria, alternating this with various other subjects and events. He also added several other anecdotes both secular and theological.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

I always say that when a service is well done, there is no "best part", and this was indeed the case! If I must choose, then the music (especially the traditional hymns and Anglican chant for Psalm 139) and the liturgy were both very uplifting.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

As every in church I have been to in this country during summertime, the terribly hot temperature.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

During the service, the Revd Dana English told us that there were refreshments in the church garden. As we moved out of the church, both members of the clergy greeted us.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

People were very warm and welcoming. I talked to many people, including the vicar and the assistant curate. Cold drinks and wine (yes, it's Italy) were served, as well as English cakes and biscuits. Hot drinks, given the 90°F (29°C) temperature, could wait.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

10 – Wonderful service, glorious music and liturgy. Great people and clergy... who wouldn't join a church like this?

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes, of course, but more than that, this church made me feel glad to be an Anglican!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The wonderful music and liturgy. And the lovely people and clergy.

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