|287: Calvary Community Church, Benecia, California|
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Mystery Worshipper: Ye Holy Angels.
The church: Calvary Community Church, Benecia, California.
Denomination: Independent Community Church.
The building: A very well finished two-storey modern concrete and brick block, with the sanctuary on the upper level, and an "ample" parking lot. A new youth building is under construction next to the church.
The neighbourhood: Nothing special, unless you count San Pablo Bay or The Matthew Turner Shipyard Park. It's also just across the bay from San Francisco.
The cast: Pastor Jerry D. Pollard.
What was the name of the service?
Sunday Morning Worship.
How full was the building?
Three-quarters full, with a good crowd of both young and old from a broad cross-section of society, including wheelchair-bound people who were in a good central spot.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We arrived quite early, so the duty welcomers had not yet booked in. However, several people, including the pastor, made a a point of coming over to us and shaking our hands warmly. During the "welcome" section of the service, Pastor Jerry welcomed us again on behalf of the congregation. This could have been awkward, but it wasn't.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, well upholstered and very comfortable fixed pews.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet, with people chatting and greeting one another.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Hi everyone, Bud's got laryngitis and so he won't be able to lead the singing today!"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Most people had their own Bibles and notebooks which they used throughout the service. Pew Bibles were also provided: the New King James Version. There were hymn books in the pews, the New Church Hymnal, but they weren't used. The songs we sang (mainly 1990s worship songs) were projected onto a wall with a sophisticated OHP system.
What musical instruments were played?
Clavinova electronic piano/synth, expertly played by Bud, plus a tambourine.
Did anything distract you?
A woman behind us kept opening and closing a zipped bag, (it might even have been her Bible, we didn't look!). Otherwise it was just fine.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was joyful and enthusiastic, but with a surprisingly low level of congregational interaction.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
The message lasted 40 minutes, but he had to stop as he ran out of time. For us, he could have carried on for much longer.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 A good speaker with a sound, well constructed message. Pastor Jerry gripped our attention throughout, and he didn't shout!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
"Possessing your inheritance": how to recognise, obtain and develop the inheritance of everlasting life offered by God through Jesus.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The message made the hairs on the back of our necks stand up and left us wanting more. If we lived here we'd definitely have to go back next week to hear the follow-up.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Sounds a bit mealy-mouthed, but, really, none of it. We didn't have an alarm bell raised during the entire experience.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people came and spoke to us and, had we wanted any, there was coffee and biscuits available in an overflow area at the rear of the sanctuary. We were looking for a hotel to stay at in San Francisco that night, and a member of the congregation and his wife took us into the church office and made a number of phone calls on our behalf, eventually finding us a suitable room. We were most grateful for their assistance.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
We didn't actually have any, but those who did seemed to be enjoying it. The kids had orange juice and cookies.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9. We felt that this was a regular community based church with a mission goal to reach out to ALL the people in the immediate catchment area, of whatever age. If we lived here we'd certainly be happy to commit ourselves to that goal.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, this was a fine group of people to worship God amongst, with a super building and a gifted pastor to match. We had a lovely time with them.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The little children, who were so keen to show us the pictures they had drawn after the service.