|567: Christ Church, Woking, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Chapelhead.
The church: Christ Church, Woking, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: A conventional redbrick structure which has been extensively reordered internally. The chancel is a raised pine platform that now extends into the nave, taking up about 40 percent of the length of the building, with the altar, lectern and musicians occupying the front half. Set into the floor behind these is the baptismal pool (for full immersion), covered when not in use. The internal walls are brick, edged with stone and are unpainted except for some pale cream paintwork at the chancel end. The re-ordering also involved building a number of meeting rooms and other facilities, which are used by the children on Sundays and can be rented out during the week.
The neighbourhood: The building is situated in the heart of Woking adjacent to the Town Square. Its neighbours are mainly shops and offices.
The cast: A man wearing a bright blue open-necked shirt led the service. He said he was the reader at the church, but I did not catch his name, nor does it appear in either the notice sheet or on the church web site. The preacher was Rev. Martin Smith, an ordained local minister, in pale blue shirt and dog-collar. The church is in a period of interregnum.
What was the name of the service?
Worship for All. This 10.30am service followed the 8.45am Holy Communion. There is also a 7.00pm youth-led Worship service.
How full was the building?
120-140 people. Most of the seats in the nave were occupied but additional chairs can be added if needed. The chancel was so large and empty that the building itself was hardly full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was given a "Good morning" along with the service sheet, Bible and notice sheet.
Was your pew comfortable?
Padded chairs rather than pews. Yes, they were comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Some people were chatting, some sitting quietly. The worship group sang the first song on the sheet and a few people, still sitting, joined in. Most did not.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
After the first song: "Hello, good morning and welcome."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The songs were both printed on the service sheet and projected onto a screen from a computer and digital projector. We were all given copies of the NIV with which to follow the readings.
What musical instruments were played?
Grand piano, acoustic guitar, electric violin, drum kit and three vocalists. The musical standard seemed high, and I could happily have heard more of the violinist in particular. The violin and drum seemed loud compared with the other instruments. The drums accompanied all but the last song, "To God be the Glory." This was a little odd, as that seemed the song most suited to percussion accompaniment.
Did anything distract you?
I was sitting in the very back row of seats on one side. Consequently quite a few people walked immediately behind me during the service to get to the rooms at that side of the building or the stairs up to the balcony.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The flurry of raised hands during the first song for which we stood made me think that the service would be much more charismatic than it turned out to be. Most of the songs were quite slow and and the congregation seemed determined to sing them quietly so opportunities to let rip were restricted. I suspect that this church gets much bouncier than I saw it.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Bullet points of the sermon were projected using the same computer/screen system used for the song lyrics, and the style was almost lecture-like. This service is regarded as the main teaching service of the day.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Blessing through giving. Using the letter to the Philippians, the subject was the Christian's responsibility in supporting others financially. The church's financial situation was touched upon, as was Christian Aid week, which was just starting.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
It was good to be in a church with a wide age range, including very many children and young adults but I don't think it ever reached the level of being heavenly.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Standing around on my own drinking coffee got a bit hellish, but I was rescued in the end.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not very much. I hung round putting on my coat and generally looking lost until one lady asked me if I had enjoyed the service. I said I had and she moved on. I read the notice board and then decided to go and get a cup of coffee anyway. I wandered around drinking it and had nearly finished when someone came over to talk to me. He was most friendly and told me about the re-ordering of the church and showed me round, but I had come close to leaving without really talking to anyone. The interregnum doesn't help and perhaps I caught them on a bad day. Tucked to one corner is a welcome desk which, as a casual visitor, I eschewed.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea, coffee and squash were served in the little coffee-shop that forms part of the building. The drinks came in polystyrene cups. I took mine away with me, having failed to spot anywhere to discard it.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 This church has a fine location and excellent facilities, but is too evangelical for my taste. Much good work is being done here, but an emphasis on every member of the congregation welcoming outsiders might be useful.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, as going to church usually does. A solid service rather than soul-inspiring, though.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The odd (to me) appearance of the large empty space behind the communion table, surrounded by plain walls and, on the back wall, a simple cross. This had what appeared to be a handful of post-it notes stuck to the cross-bar presumably prayer requests.