Mystery Worshipper: Seoirse
Church: Seventh Day Adventist Church – Amman International
Location: Amman, Jordan
Date of visit: Saturday, 14 May 2022, 12:00pm
A large, modern building attached to a private Adventist school. White stone, like a lot of the surrounding architecture. Plain and clean on the inside.
Almost exclusively made up of expats. The church is attached to a large private school, but beyond that I don't know about any outreach programs the church runs. No outreach programs or activities were mentioned during the service.
Rainbow Street is the main street for shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, bang in the centre of Jordan's capital, Amman. Nearby is a largely Filipino neighbourhood, and the nearby neighbourhoods of Jabal Amman and Jabal Lweibdeh are very popular with expats.
The minister preached. Four women made up the choir, and one of them led the rest of the service. There was a small worship band to one side.
What was the name of the service?Divine Service.
How full was the building?
About three-quarters full in a building that could fit about 150. There were a lot of Filipinos and South Americans, as well as some Americans and people from other countries.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The woman leading the service invited newcomers to raise their hands. I did, but thankfully she didn't see me. I am an Anglican, after all.
Was your pew comfortable?
Perfectly comfortable! One of the nicest my rear end has ever met.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The church shares its building with an Arabic congregation, whose service finished right as this service began. We overlapped in the small vestibule. Once inside, people were greeting each other, kids were running around, and the worship band were setting everything up. We started about half an hour late.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
'Happy Sabbath, everyone!'
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The song lyrics were projected onto a screen. There were Bibles in the pews – New King James Version and an Arabic translation.
What musical instruments were played?
Synthesizers (heaven help us) augmented by an acoustic guitar, a ukulele, an electric drum kit, and drums.
Did anything distract you?
One of the musicians was so beautiful I wanted to cry. Instead, I respectfully lowered my eyes and stared at my hands. There were lots of children who were fussing and fidgeting – that, I could put up with, but many of the adults were also moving around, chatting, and even taking videos of the musicians at one point.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very typical middle-of-the-road Protestant worship. There were several songs, a short message for the children from one of the congregants, and a long sermon. The songs weren't my cup of tea – if I never hear 'Good Good Father' again in my life it will be too soon – but the four women who made up the choir had lovely voices and seemed very passionate. The congregation were fidgety and the service quite disorganised, but the people overall seemed very enthusiastic. They joined in with the hymns with gusto and were interacting with the minister during his sermon when he encouraged it.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 — The low score is based on the fact that it was, in my opinion, quite a shallow sermon, especially given its length. There was relatively little Biblical exegesis, and other than a reference to the parable of the prodigal son, there was no thread of a Biblical reference. Of course, being from a different tradition, I have different tastes in sermons. Also, the minister was preaching to a very diverse congregation, few of whom spoke English as a first language (including the minister himself). Both of these are worth taking into account. However, I still felt that the sermon could have had a little more meat.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
In a word, fatherhood. Who is our father? The minister discussed his relationship with his own absentee father. He drew comparisons with the parable of the prodigal son. It can be difficult for us to relate to God the Father if we don't have a good relationship with our earthly father. By meditating on Christ's sacrifice, we can come to a better relationship with the Father.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
A beautiful song sung in both English and Spanish about peace (it was unfamiliar to me and I didn't catch the name). Before starting, the singer invited us to pray for the peace of Christ. It was something I really needed to hear today, and her voice was beautiful. In addition, I was heartened to see the diversity of the congregation, and the number of kids.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The whole thing was quite disorganised. Transitions between one part of the service and the next were drawn-out. This, plus the general noise and chaos of the fidgety congregation, made it quite hard to concentrate.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
They all filed off next door to the pot luck, or out onto the street to catch taxis. A few people said hello to me, and if I hadn't had to run off to go and do my homework, I'm sure they would have been very friendly.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was a pot luck next door, but as mentioned, I didn't go.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 — A friendly, enthusiastic congregation, if disorganised, and a Saturday service is definitely handier for a Middle Eastern working week. However, this style of worship isn't to my taste at all, and I have several theological problems with the SDA Church.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
In the sense that it was nice to see a Christian community worshipping together, yes. But I didn't feel especially close to God during the service.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The fidgety congregation. Sit still!