|404: Pantygwydr Baptist, Swansea, Wales|
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Mystery Worshipper: Hungover.
The church: Pantygwydr Baptist, Swansea, Wales.
The building: Imposing grey stone main building, in a typical Welsh style. Plain glass windows. Modern church hall attached to side of main building. Both buildings feel light and airy inside. Plain neutral walls with dark wood beams, pews and balcony. Large set of impressive copper organ pipes, now disused. Simple wooden cross on the front wall.
The church: Mainly English language services, with monthly Welsh service.
The cast: Led by Rev. Geoffrey N. Fewkes. Message by Alish Eves, guest speaker from London Bible College.
What was the name of the service?
Ordination Service of Peter John Orphan.
How full was the building?
Very full. Even the balcony was fairly full, which is apparently a rare event.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
As the lady handed us the service sheet, she said, "There we go!"
Was your pew comfortable?
No. These could be described as "airline pews", with very little room to move your legs. Add to that a nasty ridge on the back of the pew jabbing into my back. A lady in front of me slid her service sheet behind her back, obviously to flatten out the bumps a little no doubt a technique perfected over many years.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Because it was an ordination service there were many long-lost friends of the church at the service. This made for a lively atmosphere which was hard to calm down once the service had started.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Morning everybody," followed by an invitation for visitors to raise their hands and recive a visitor's card and free pen. That pen was very useful for writing the notes for this report!
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Holy Bible New International Version. The church also has Christian Hymns (the hymnbook of the Evangelical Movement of Wales), although we didn't use it in the service.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, drums, electric piano, cello, saxophone and electric guitar. All the instruments were used in each song, but they were generally drowned out by the organ.
Did anything distract you?
I was only distracted by the hangover from hell that I was suffering from the night before. During the prayers my attention was all but lost when I had a massive urge to throw up. Escape to the toilets was not possible because I was trapped in the middle of a pew. I managed to sweat it out in the end and the crisis was over by the end of "thank you for saving me".
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Mainly modern worship songs sung in a refined but enthusiastic manner. I liked the fact that each song was sung through only once I have a low boredom threshold!
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
3 The talk seemed directionless and inappropriate to an ordination service. The preacher was keen to make lots of bits social comment, but there was no coherent message.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The lack of direction made things hard to follow, but one of her points was that we do not have all the answers, but Jesus does. My notes for the sermon just say "John 14:22, Judas question." My mind wandered after that.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I loved the part where they read out greetings from local churches in Swansea and West Wales, wishing the chap being ordained "all the best" and things like that. It was all very New Testament letters in feeling! Also, a singer/songwriter in the church played one of his songs, and he was actually very good!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
My thumping head and dodgy stomach! The service itself had nothing much hellish about it, apart from perhaps the PA system (or those operating it?)
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
As it was the first week of term at the local university, we were asked many times whether we were students and why we were visiting.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I had squash. In my dehydrated state I could not face coffee, but I did note it was served in china tea cups and saucers. How dignified. The squash was fine, if a rather vivid colour. We were then invited to the Bring and Share lunch, which had more than enough food and a good variety (only two quiches, though).
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 songs were very God-focused and affirmed the faith (eg. "We Believe"). The church members have a very clear commitment to one another, both in church life and otherwise. This made me feel glad to be sharing this occasion with them and the happiness that was evident that morning.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The moment when the deacons prayed for the new minister, I have never seen the laying on of hands done in quite that manner. I though he was going to have at least a few broken ribs, but he seemed to be fine.