|113: Christian City Church, Oxford Falls, Sydney, Australia|
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Mystery Worshipper: English girl in a strange place.
The church: Christian City Church, Oxford Falls, Sydney, Australia.
Denomination: Christian City Church, a movement which claims 62 churches in countries including Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Europe and Asia.
The building: A new auditorium which is part of an enormous complex, comprising theatres, studios, a college, cafe, shops.
The neighbourhood: On the edge of town, close to a national park.
The cast: Phil Pringle, the founding pastor of the Christian City Church movement.
What was the name of the service?
"Party Praise and Worship" at 6.00pm.
How full was the building?
Very full. The auditorium takes about 1,000 people and it was very nearly overflowing.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. The people I was with introduced me to everyone they knew, which seemed to be more or less everyone in the place... it took a while.
Was your pew comfortable?
Not a pew, a soft chair, like you'd have in a theatre. But there wasn't much opportunity to sit down.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Unfortunately we didn't actually get in there till the first song had started. I don't feel that I missed much the amplification was so loud I would have heard it just as well from the car park.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Let's sing that again."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Bible (optional).
What musical instruments were played?
Piano, synth, guitar, drums, tambourine.
Did anything distract you?
With that much sound, nothing else stood a chance.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I'd like to say happity clappity, but it was more like ecstatic. The band were well rehearsed and very talented, slick and professional. The congregation are obviously used to nothing less.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
About 35 minutes it's difficult to say because there was no formal end to it. Somewhere along the way, the pastor started blessing people, and before I knew what was happening everyone was falling over flat on their backs, and the rest of the congregation was busy catching up with their friends. That appeared to be the end of the sermon.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 full of enthusiasm and fire, a little short on content.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
"Jesus the great unsticker".
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The worship at the beginning. Heavenly, if heaven is that loud.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Cringing embarrassment as I watched everyone falling over. I got the feeling they were doing it because they were expected to, that they do it every week. I'm not saying you can't have a blessing every week, it just seemed a bit too routine.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Eventually people did come up and talk... one girl prayed with me for something. They were all very sweet, and burning with enthusiasm.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There wasn't any. I'm not sure if the cafe was still open. Those who weren't flat on their backs were catching up with their mates and eventually everyone drifted off.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6. It was refreshing, but I would be terrified to take a non-Christian friend to that particular service.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, definitely. It was good to be among so many people who really have one big thing in common.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?