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309: Studley Baptist, Studley, Warwickshire, England
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Studley Baptist, Studley, Warwickshire
Mystery Worshipper: Don Camillo.
The church: Studley Baptist, Studley, Warwickshire, England.
Denomination: Baptist.
The building: 1840s red-brick chapel. The interior was modernized in the 1980s, and the sanctuary walls are covered in light green fabric.
The neighbourhood: When it was first built, the chapel was at the extreme end of the village. With the development around the time of World War II, it's now firmly in the village.
The cast: Heather, Al and Evelyn, I think. Names weren't given. I think they were deacons.
What was the name of the service?
Morning Service.

How full was the building?
Disappointingly empty. There were 36 including the musicians, with seating for around 100.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was met at the door by a lady handing me a hymn book. She was a little bemused when I ran off to get my Bible from the car.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews have been replaced with padded chairs. They were very comfortable and had a metal bar across the back legs, which some of the more relaxed locals from the row behind used as footrests.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Lots of chatter. People were talking quite animatedly with neighbours until the worship group fired up; then they chatted in slightly subdued animation.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Well, welcome to this morning's service. It's nice to see you all here."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The hymnbook was the new Songs of Fellowship. Other than that, there was a weekly notice sheet and a leaflet explaining the month's theme.

What musical instruments were played?
A huge electric organ and an inaudible flute.

Did anything distract you?
During the worship, the congregation played musical chairs. As soon as the music stopped they all sat down rapidly. Then the next hymn was announced and they all stood up. But not all at once. The first row, the keenies, stood up with the introduction. The other rows followed in sequence as the song started, creating a sort of Mexican Wave effect. With a little work, the musicians could have kept them bobbing up and down all day.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was quiet and restrained. It felt as though people didn't want to be heard singing. Either that or they didn't know any of the songs.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
24 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – The preacher's husband read the passage of scripture, with a song half way through (more musical chairs), and then the preacher paraphrased it for us. In case we didn't hear it the first time, I guess.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Exodus 2:1-21: the story of Moses from his birth to his marriage. The point was that God has a plan, and we need to find and follow it. Things happen in God's perfect timing, not ours.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Al gave some thoughts on the lyrics to the song, "Faithful one", around God's unchanging goodness. It was very insightful.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Singing "Such love, such grace." Hardly anyone sang, it was too high for most people, and so they sang it twice.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was with a local, so "looking lost" would have been "looking strange".

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I had a very hot cup of tea in a little green cup beloved of village halls everywhere. Oh, and a saucer to put it on, but no bikky.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. The locals obviously knew and cared deeply about each other. I liked being in a group which showed it.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The moment the words "Mexican Wave" came into my head, rapidly followed by the urge to remove a chair after each song.
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