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466: St John's, Woodbridge, Suffolk, England
Other reports | Comment on this report
St John's, Woodbridge, Suffolk, England
Mystery Worshipper: Jam-maker.
The church: St John's, Woodbridge, Suffolk, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Victorian. Apparently the spire disappeared in the 1970s after being declared unsound. Modernized inside with a lovely light and airy feel, if slightly overpink.
The church: Strong on youth work, kids holiday club. The church has a superb website.
The neighbourhood: In the old part of the town.
The cast: Lorna Webber, leading (for the first time). Dave Gardner, the vicar, was preaching.
What was the name of the service?
Morning Praise.

How full was the building?
Good turnout. Every row was occupied, even the front one.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Welcomers at the door were very friendly and helpful, explaining about kids groups for little Mystery Worshippers. However, once inside, I was left to my own devices. Nothing was said from the front specifically for newcomers. The Peace produced handshakes and nervous smiles, but not much more.

Was your pew comfortable?
Smart upholstered seats, which were fine.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Busy and chatty. People were pleased to see each other.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome to Morning Praise" – spoken by the worship leader. "Good morning and welcome to Morning Praise" – was also spoken by the service leader 10 minutes later, who either felt it needed repeating with more conviction, or hadn't been paying attention.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Service book with localized cover (potted ASB, I think). All songs and hymns were projected by an OHP.

What musical instruments were played?
Two guitars, keyboard, two singers, though unfortunately all these were totally drowned out by the drums. The organ was retained for the hymns.

Did anything distract you?
The reluctance of musicians and singers to take their eyes of their words/music always suggests to me they either don't really like leading, or don't know the songs. The keyboard player was the notable exception.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A combination of worship band and organ, which probably reflected the mix of the congregation. The stop-start approach with wordy introductions hindered any continuity. During the only kids' song, the congregation's unwillingness to join in any actions was more than compensated for by the vicar's enthusiastic participation.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
24 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – A great blend of spiritual wisdom and common sense, encouragement and challenge, biblical exposition and football analogies.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Finance and giving, but in the larger context of being sold out for God (Matthew 4:20 – "they left their nets and followed him"). As this was probably their annual appeal, you might view the sermon as atypical and reserve judgment on the preaching. However, I sensed it was part of a consistent message of following Christ wholeheartedly, and I found it absolutely compelling.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The local community coming together. Being challenged to follow God.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I'd like to say being handed a blank banker's order with my service sheet on arrival. However, there was no collection and as it fitted in naturally to the context of the service, it was probably a sensible measure.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I am afraid I was totally ignored for some time. Only the welcomers on the door appeared sensitive to newcomers. After 12 minutes, which felt like a long time, and longer than a normal visitor might have waited, one lady did spot me and chatted. Mrs Mystery Worshipper fared better, but then again she is rather more attractive.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Ordinary coffee, nice mugs. No extras. Squash for little Mystery Worshippers, who had enjoyed their groups.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – though the content of a Sunday service is probably a poor criteria for such a decision.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I think so.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The vicar's song actions.
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