|59: First United Methodist Church, Fort Collins, Colorado|
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Mystery Worshipper: The Churchmouse Family.
The church: First United Methodist Church, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.
Denomination: United Methodist.
The building: The church complex rambles over lovely grounds of nearly a city block. The sanctuary, built in 1964, has the pale wood and simple lines of that decade of design.
The neighbourhood: Older, quiet, residential neighborhood. Wide streets, lots of large trees.
The cast: Rev Jim Cowell.
What was the name of the service?
9:15 Worship. This Sunday was 'Miracle Sunday', celebrating the church's 130th anniversary in the community.
How full was the building?
The sanctuary holds about 450 worshippers.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
And how! Entering the church was a bit like running the gauntlet. The sanctuary is at the back corner of the complex as it faces the street, with a long hall that leads to the gathering area. Welcomers are stationed all along the hallway, presumably so that newcomers don't get lost or lose heart and turn back.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, padded seats. But we missed having kneelers. Some of us have short legs that could use the lift.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
We arrived just before the service began, as announcements were being read. People visited quietly, but the PA system made sure that everyone could hear the announcements.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
'We are glad you are here.'
What books did the congregation use during the service?
'The United Methodist Hymnal'. All responses were printed in the service bulletin.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, piano and flute.
Did anything distract you?
The tendency of the congregation to applaud after a performance by the choirs. I found the shifting identity between worshipper and audience member disconcerting.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Reserved, mainstream to the point of being generic. The hymns were foursquare favorites and spirituals that you would be likely to know even if you weren't a Methodist.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
About 11 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 not bad. Enthusiastic and sincere, though rambling.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
'Three Essentials of a Life of Faith.'
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The children. I have never seen so many children in a church before. They filled the front of the church for the children's sermon, sang with mighty gusto about being wonders of God's creation, and as they left the sanctuary for Sunday school, I thought the parade would never end.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nothing, really, except the occasional clanger on the organ. And the applause. Not undeserved, mind you, but maybe inappropriate in the worship experience.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No chance of that. We got caught up in the human tide and ended up in the auditorium where coffee was served.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Delightful. Hot, strong coffee served from an urn in styrofoam cups, and doughnuts, if you wished, for a small offering. A long line to wait for it, though, but it did give us time to review Sunday school with the kids.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7. Churchmouse, Jr. was thrilled, which is no easy task! He came out sporting a brand new Bible and some WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) coupons, good for small toys at the Sunday school shop in the library. He would give it a 10, I'm sure, as he's asked that we join. His words: 'I feel God when I'm here.' How can you argue with that?
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, though apparently not as much as it did for Junior.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The children. And Junior's new Bible.