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443: Elmwood Church and Christian Centre, Salford, Manchester, England
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Elmwood Church and Christian Centre, Salford
Mystery Worshipper: Squirrel.
The church: Elmwood Church and Christian Centre, Salford, Manchester, England.
Denomination: Independent Evangelical.
The building: The building is modern (1987, I think), brick built, low and sprawling. Has an interesting hexagonal dome/tower structure. Set in an idylllic tree-lined boulevard in the heart of Salford.
The church: Not that I noticed.
The neighbourhood: I think it must be one of the nicer bits of Salford as my car was still where I left it when I returned to it (prejudice, prejudice!).
The cast: Rev. Dr Derek Stringer (senior pastor).
What was the name of the service?
Very appropriately, "morning service".

How full was the building?
Miraculously, just the correct number of seats for those who atrrived.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Welcomed twice on arrival – a limp handshake and no eye-contact at the door, then had my hand crushed on receipt of the newssheet – on average about right, I guess.

Was your pew comfortable?
Most of the seating is modern pews (pale blue/green padded seats, very tasteful); around the edges of the room are raised areas with chairs – this time with pale pink seats. Wondered if this was attempt at segregating the sexes by decor? Sat on a pink chair, which was comfortable enough.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Pre-service atmos was buzzing – loads of people meeting and greeting each other and generally standing around chatting. This continued after the start of the worship.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
The atmosphere was so buzzing that these words were almost entirely lost. I managed to catch "... end of a row... at the back... song number one..." and then the worship group kicked in.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books were distributed for the service – song words were projected with a powerpoint thingy. We were encouraged to consult our own Bibles during the sermon, though.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano, two flutes, one guitar, one v. young drummer and four female vocalists. Technically pretty good, but the vocal line-up did lead to problems during male/female songs.

Did anything distract you?
Distracting (though not necessarily in a bad way) was the sign-language translation of the whole service, including the singing. Oh, and the lemon yellow suit in the worship group.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was pretty upbeat and contemporary. Not too many raised hands, but strong voices and the odd spontaneous round of applause. There was 20 minutes of worship at the beginning and then a few other songs spread throughout the service.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
28 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – He started with a joke which was actually funny – an unusual gift in a preacher.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was number four in a series on the "seven deadly sins". This week was lust. Not exactly the most preached-on subject, but handled with no coyness and no holds barred. He used James 1:13-15. Convicting, but encouraging.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The "kids-bit" for the five minutes before the sermon – all the kids rushed to the front to be involved, and it was entertaining for adults, too. Lots of fun and not patronising!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The first few lines of "God of Glory", when the congregation, pianist and drummer all believed they knew best how fast the song should go. Finally we all gave up and settled on a conservative, but uniform, pace.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I lingered about after the service in the coffee area, reading noticeboards, looking at the bookstall and generally trying to look lost. Saw lots of evidence of northern friendliness, but all directed at one another and none (except for a couple of smiles) at me. However, one person did introduce himself just before I left – he was talkative and friendly.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Blackcurrant squash (think it was Vimto) in a disconcertingly warm plastic mug.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – My only reservation would be the size – it felt quite big and perhaps difficult to get to know people.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it actually did!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I'll probably always remember it as the sermon with the most sex in.
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