|29: Crescent Hill Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky|
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Mystery Worshipper: The preacher man.
The church: Crescent Hill Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky.
Denomination: Crescent Hill has alliances with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and American Baptist Churches, USA.
The building: Greek revival with an impressive portico, an Italian-style bell tower and beautiful stained glass windows. The sanctuary features a wrap-around balcony and a large pipe organ. A most impressive edifice!
The neighbourhood: An interesting middle to upper-class urban community on the east side of Louisville. The church is located near the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the oldest SBC seminary in the United States. The congregation serves its community through an after-school program, food collection for a community food bank, an annual divorce recovery workshop, and sports activities in the church gymnasium.
The cast: The pastor, Dr Ronald D. Sisk. This was a mission service, with guest speakers Rick and Ellen Burnette. They are Cooperative Baptist Fellowship missionaries to the Rock People of Northern Thailand.
What was the name of the service?
'The Worship of God' was the heading for this service in the bulletin.
How full was the building?
I estimate about half full. I would have thought that a prominent, historic Southern Baptist church near the flagship seminary of the SBC would be more full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A number of people (greeters and ushers) spoke to us as we entered. Several others seated around us spoke to us during the time of greeting at the beginning of the service.
Was your pew comfortable?
We were in a typical oak pew like one would find in most Baptist churches. There was no padding, but I was not uncomfortable at all.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Somewhat quiet and dignified. The service started late, which was good, since we were a few minutes late ourselves. There were parking spaces designated for visitors on the street right in front of the church.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
'Good morning and welcome to Crescent Hill. Let us greet one another.'
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The hymnal was 'The Worshipping Church' one of the better hymnals recently published in the United States. The bulletin included a responsive call to worship as well as the text of the anthem and the solo.
What musical instruments were played?
A 10-piece orchestra in the balcony played an instrumental voluntary to start the service and accompanied the hymns along with the organ. A couple sang a duet to guitar music. The choir and soloist were accompanied by the piano.
Did anything distract you?
A train rumbled by across the street during the time of silent prayer, and later during the message. Also a woman had to leave because of a spasm of coughing during the pastoral prayer.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
High-church Baptist. The congregation even stood for the Gospel reading and responded to the reader's concluding 'This is the word of the Lord', by saying, 'Thanks be to God'.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
17 minutes, in two parts. The first part, 'Who are the Rock People?' lasted five minutes and was given by Ellen Burnette. The second part was 'Ministry to the Rock People' and lasted 12 minutes. Both Ellen and Rick spoke at that time.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
Missionary presentation have a sameness about them at times I've almost thought, 'You've heard one, you've heard them all'. This one was relatively brief and to the point, so I would give it a 6.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The ministry among the Rock People is holistic, as it seeks to minister to both their physical and spiritual needs. The congregation was being challenged to 'adopt' them as a special missionary focus for the next three years.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The wonderful variety of music, including the orchestra playing 'The Great Gate of Kiev' from Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition'; the P.P. Bliss Gospel song, 'The Light of the World is Jesus', sung as the introit and benediction response with guitar accompaniment; the contemporary Roman Catholic song, 'Here I am, Lord,' sung as an anthem by the Chancel Choir; and an aria from Handel's Messiah, 'How Beautiful are the Feet of Them', sung by a high school girl. The richness and variety of the music was a beautiful expression of what I imagine heaven will be like.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nothing jumped out at me as being like that 'other place'.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
An elderly couple came and spoke with us, as did several other people. I was directed to the pastor and had a pleasant conversation with him. A welcoming letter from the pastor arrived in the mail just four days later.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no coffee hour. I was disappointed that no one offered to take us on a tour of the building.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
Most positive I would give it a 9. My daughters (ages 14 and 9) both commented that they liked the church and would want to join.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes... I felt a connection to my heritage as a Baptist, an increased awareness of missions, and the challenge to put 'feet on my faith' to reach those who have never heard that 'the light of the world is Jesus'. I asked my daughters if the experience made them glad to be Christians. Both immediately said 'yes'.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The rich diversity of the music.