Mystery Worshipper: Ironted
Church: Bishopbriggs Community Church
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Date of visit: Sunday, 21 March 2010, 10:30am
Functional and not pretty on the outside, but the main hall and foyer feel warm and welcoming on the inside. The building was purpose-built for the Christian community in the late 70s and has that type of architecture. It currently has water problems in the basement where the playgroup and creche are normally situated, but there are many other rooms for children's work and offices and the like. The main hall has a wide stage, with a few colourful decorations mainly focussing around the cross. There were three highly polished planks of wood taken from the same tree, with crosses artfully etched into them, hung behind the centre stage – very original artwork.
The church was born in the early 1970s out of a group of teenagers meeting together to seek God and then look outward to show Jesus to others. They actually constructed the building, its road, a number of houses and a block of flats themselves. The road sign has the church pictured on it (which I guess is possible when you build the road yourselves). Today the church puts a lot of emphasis on meeting together and praying, on children and families, and on evangelism. This sounds quite Christ-like to me.
Bishopbriggs is an area to the north of Glasgow, within easy commuting distance, but also well on the way to the picturesque Campsie Fells, the hills that dominate Glasgow to the north.
Rob Martin led the service, Irene Barrie preached, and Alistair (no surname given) led the sung worship. Grant Campbell, the community pastor, and others shared some encouraging stories.
What was the name of the service?Sunday Morning at 10.30.
How full was the building?
Around three-quarters full, about 120 people. The back half was packed. The right section mainly included young families.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Christina (again, no surname) welcomed us at the door and gave us a news sheet. A chap named Fraser came up to us before the service to tell us about the arrangements for the children. A few other people said hello and generally made us feel welcome.
Was your pew comfortable?
The chairs were cushioned and comfortable without being sofa-like, but not great for those with large bottoms. They are the type you find in a lot of conferences. There was not a lot of room between the rows, so any potential dancing during the worship was restricted to sideways movement and the aisles.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The band was practising at the front of the hall as we went in and then spent a good 10 minutes praying for each other. There was an increasing amount of chatter as more people entered the hall, and this did not really die down as Rob Martin tried to begin the service.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. Can I encourage you to take your seats?" After this Rob continued to talk for awhile whilst working out sound issues, but it felt like no one was listening and everyone was continuing to chat. The atmosphere quietened when Rob got a child in the row in front of us to repeat a memory verse (correctly) from Hebrews.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. Words were on the screen for the songs. The Bible (New International Version, I think) was read out from during the service, but Bibles were not issued to the congregation.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, rhythm and lead guitars, bass, drums, and (occasionally) a flute. A full band with two backing singers. The worship leader, Alistair, was also playing the rhythm guitar.
Did anything distract you?
All the chatter and children's noise at the beginning of the service in addition to the problems with the microphones/sound. Whispered but audible prayer at the back during the sermon. The band fiddling with their musical instruments whilst someone was talking. The bouncy hair of the excited preacher Irene. The two boys in front of us hitting each other during the sung worship.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was happy-clappy without clapping. There were many hands in the air, expressive dancing and flag waving. People sang with gusto, and the band led most of the songs very well without being too overbearing. Grant Campbell, the community pastor, did not contribute much from the front, but he did say that he thought people should be sharing stories and remembering to listen to them too. After this, six people from the congregation took up the challenge and told stories, clearly showing that Jesus is alive and at work today.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Irene Barrie was really excited about God: God healing people, people's stories, people meeting with God, pretty much everything she talked about. This meant that she moved and smiled a lot and her hair seemed to bob up and down. She described her own preaching style as a good Scottish dance, which starts off structured but moves into a happy chaos, with no one quite sure what is going to come next. I'd go along with that.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Heroes of faith, part of a series on Hebrews 11. Irene was specifically talking about Enoch, who is well remembered despite only featuring in about four verses in the whole Bible. She wanted people to go away putting the concept of "by faith" into practice. Take a few risks. Ask what God can do through you for other people.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Singing "Hosanna" and "Power of Your Love". Hearing excited people's stories of God healing others and themselves. Irene's smile.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The start of the service, when the leader was not being noticed or listened to. The ongoing issues with the sound.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The service ended quite fluidly and so we flowed out of the hall like most of the other people. We got a drink and a biscuit and looked at notice boards for around three minutes before we were spoken to by Rob (the leader of the service), a woman named Debbie, and another lady. The conversation flowed well with each of them, leaving us feeling "met". On another day, however, we might have left after looking at the first notice board.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Their notice board proclaims them to be a fair trade church. The squash (in plastic cups) was nice. There was a selection of biscuits readily available in a large tupperware tub. The tea was lovely but in a polystyrene cup.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – If we were not committed elsewhere and lived closer, we would make it our regular church. They even have a crèche where you can leave your baby, and the baby is happy over an hour later when you go back for him!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The stories and Irene's smile(and hair).