|548: Evangelical Free, Fremont, California|
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Mystery Worshipper: Miss Dree-Saint.
The church: Evangelical Free, Fremont, California, USA.
Denomination: Evangelical Free.
The building: A nicely maintained modern facility with a stone and stucco facade. The grounds are clean and attractive and there is a multi-purpose center across the way from the main facility.
The neighbourhood: Just a typical suburban setting in the mid to upper middle class area of Fremont. Of course most of Fremont would fall into that category or better. Fremont can be considered as a microcosm of the Silicon Valley Area in general.
The cast: According to his description on the church web site, the worship leader, Matt Snelson, is a young lad of 23. He seems rather energetic and well suited to supplying a zesty worship time. The senior pastor didn't speak on this Sunday; Dale Goncalves, one of the associate pastors, was the speaker for the day.
What was the name of the service?
9.00am Sunday morning worship.
How full was the building?
This was Mothers' day and there was a fairly decently sized assembly. The church was about 90 per cent full with I'd say between 400 and 500 people in total.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I received a warm hand shake and a hearty "Hello," from a middle-aged lady in the lobby. She seemed nice enough, although it was obvious that it was her assigned job to welcome me. Later on in the service we were encouraged to turn and greet one another. I'm never a big fan of this kind of forced friendliness but it seems most churches in the my neck of the woods do it that way.
Was your pew comfortable?
I had no complaints.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was typical of churches I have attended of this variety. The pre-service was rather chatty and a CD of Christian music was playing in the background.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
After an opening volley of some spirited praise songs, the worship leader stopped for a moment and said, "Well, as you all know, it's Mothers' Day." He then directed us to turn and greet each other with a "Happy Mothers' Day." If you could tell that your greetee wasn't a mother a generic hello would suffice. The worship pastor is just a kid of 23. I suppose he thought it was a humorous method of introduction.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Copies of the New International Version of the Bible were supplied in the pews and referenced in the powerpoint multimedia presentation. Oddly, the pastor read from the Living New Testament version during the sermon. The only other literature on offer was a nicely designed church bulletin providing all manner of general and specific announcements, sermon notes and a prayer request card. The music was printed in the bulletin and projected on a screen in the front of the church, so no hymn books were needed.
What musical instruments were played?
The worship leader directed the band with an acoustic guitar. The rest of the worship team consisted of a bass guitar, electric guitar, electric keyboard, piano, trumpet, flute, percussionist, seven vocalists and a rather loud set of drums. A total of some 85 to 90 decibels of worship music listening pleasure.
Did anything distract you?
Other than a bashful baby in a row in front of me playing peek-a-boo for about 10 minutes, the only distraction happened at one particular point in the last worship song. The worship leader (thinking he was on key) bellowed out some kind of descant. At first I thought someone in the front row was having either a seizure or a religious moment. It probably sounded good on the CD where the worship leader first heard the song but something was most definitely lost in the translation. It was a rather unfortunate way to end an otherwise more or less enjoyable worship session.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Considering the lack of an organ and the instrument list above, you can probably guess that it was much more in the happy clappy camp. That was fine by me since I like that kind of worship music. It moved nicely towards more reflective songs in the middle of the service. The tempo pitched back up a notch with the final song that had the aforementioned unfortunate ending.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
After the pastor took a minute or so trying to get his powerpoint clicker to work, the sermon finally started at 9.27am and ended at 10.05am. Thus, including the two or three minute video interlude half-way through the message, it was exactly 38 minutes long.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 The message was presented by the relationship pastor rather than the senior pastor, and I suspect this gentleman isn't accustomed to speaking to larger gatherings. He seemed rather less than fluid; at times rattling rather quickly through his points and then somewhat mechanically confirming them before rushing on to the next. He had some engaging moments but seemed capable rather than comfortable. Overall he was slightly lacking in the natural affinity that comes with time spent in the pulpit but, given time and practice, he should do well. Rather distractingly, he has the misfortune of looking and sounding all too similar to our state governor. I am of the opposite political persuasion so this was not greatly in his favor.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was based around Matthew 15:21-28. We all should seek to acquire such a faith and tenacity (not to mention quick wit) as that of the Gentile woman who pleaded with Jesus to heal her daughter. He praised the acumen of the mother's snappy rejoiner to Christ, "Even the dogs are permitted to eat crumbs that fall beneath their master's table."
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I am a great fan of good worship music. Music allows me to come before the throne of God where I can drop my failures of the week at the feet of the King; offer up praise, and be touched by the Father. Happy clappy is good at times but there also needs to be an overall sensitivity to the Spirit to allow a certain level of intimacy to develop between the congregation and the Father. There were two or three songs that allowed me those kinds of moments. But, for me, a full blown intimate worship time didn't quite develop. I think with some seasoning and sensitivity to the Spirit, the young worship pastor will get better at it. He appears to have the talent.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well, it was a tad on the warm side in the balcony where I was seated. However, I think someone in charge noticed our discomfort since the temperature cooled down somewhat in the later half of the service.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
With so many folks milling about on such a crowded day it was difficult to look completely lost, or at least to look lost and be noticed. However, as I sauntered up to the refreshment booth and grabbed a cup of apple juice, I was politely (if briefly) greeted with a "How's it goin'?" from the gentleman pouring.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Juice and coffee was served in paper cups, and there were donuts and bagels on offer. I'm not a coffee drinker but the juice was as good as juice can be when served freshly poured from a plastic bottle. The donuts and bagels had been torn rather than cut into quarters giving them a rather less than appetizing picked through appearance.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 With such a brief exposure to the church it's hard to put a number to it. But if someone put a gun to my head and said pick a number, I guess I'd give it an ... uh ... well ... a solid seven with the possibilities of a nine.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It didn't make me embarrassed to be one, as has happened in some other churches.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I suppose I'll recall that the church has a good facility with a large group of folk, potential for good worship music and an overall pleasant feeling.