Mystery Worshipper: Aileen
Church: Russell Park Baptist
Location: Bedford, England
Date of visit: Wednesday, 25 December 2013, 10:00am
[Editor's note: This church has changed its name to Three Rivers Church.] It is an old church with a new part added to it. The interior is plain and predominantly white. There was a very realistic looking manger scene with statues, and another manger scene with cardboard cutouts of the Holy Family and some sheep.
They are very active in a large number of local and international ministries that are described on their website. Their Sunday children's program is called King's Kids. They maintain close relations with about a dozen other churches in the Bedford area. They operate the Jaffa Orchard, which is a combination coffee shop, cyber cafe and gift shop.
The Russell Park area of Bedford is located on the Embankment, "the jewel in Bedford's crown", and features gardens and recreational spaces. There are very many ancient homes near the church, all looking lovely. There are also shops, not huge ones, and also places where people can eat, and hotels.
The Revd Paul Sands, lead pastor, and the Revd David Gibson, pastor.
What was the name of the service?Christmas Service.
How full was the building?
There were many people inside the church, maybe more than 100. There was also a group of singers and musicians.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was welcomed nicely by people as I came in, a little early before the service started, and I was shown around the the places in the church, including where baptisms take place. When I sat down, other people chatted to me.
Was your pew comfortable?
There were not pews, but very comfortable green seats. The wool carpeting on the floor looked comfortable enough to sit on also!
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There were excellent singers performing for a while before the service began. We all enjoyed this.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good welcome all, and also to those visiting us! Celebrate the birth of Jesus!"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Bibles were available, but everything we needed was projected, except for the Lord's Prayer, which it was assumed that everyone knew.
What musical instruments were played?
Piano and guitars were used well.
Did anything distract you?
I had dressed warmly against the cold outside, but it was very warm inside the church. I finally had to take off my coat and shove it under my seat.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
We sang many hymns and also put up our hands to worship God and wave our hands around. It was lovely singing and music.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – A good explanation of the Bible passages that had been read.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
God says that Jesus will set us free. He is glorious, wonderful. We need to know the truth God gives us: Jesus is the Christ and rescues all his people. God loves us individually and and knows our names and where we live. God saves us from our sins. Christ came into the world and later went to the cross to save us. He then was risen from the dead! We love our living Saviour. Let's worship him!
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I felt a bit like being in heaven as we sang to God and heard about Jesus saving us. And I remembered how heavenly I felt as I had my baptism.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I felt sad about myself not always behaving perfectly and worried about not telling everyone about Jesus loving us.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People chatted to me and wished me a happy Christmas. They were all really nice friendly people.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I did not have any tea or coffee.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – I really enjoyed worshipping in this church, and if I lived close I would probably wish to belong to it.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I felt happy because I am a Christian who was baptised as a teenager, although I have worshipped Jesus since I was little.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Jesus is our Saviour! God loves us!