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683: Emmanuel Baptist, Falmouth, England
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Emmanuel Baptist Church, Falmouth
Mystery Worshipper: AJH.
The church: Emmanuel Baptist, Falmouth, England.
Denomination: Baptist.
The building: Outside it looked less than 100 years old, with a large veranda or porch at the front. Inside it was difficult to tell the age, but the carpeting, upholstered chairs (padded seats, anyway) and general decor suggested a recent building. It was a comfortable building to be in. It's on the main road in Falmouth – you can't miss the big noticeboard announcing all the services.
The church: To avoid being engaged in conversation, feigning dumbness is probably the only solution. Someone is bound to talk to you otherwise. It's very friendly.
The neighbourhood: The church is at the top of the hill in the town, which is bad news if you live at the bottom and have to walk up.
The cast: Barry Woodward led the worship. Charles Blizzard handled the teaching ministry.
What was the name of the service?
Morning worship.

How full was the building?
Mostly full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
In the porch, a handshake and friendly welcome. On going through into the church, a more restrained welcome and the service sheet (with sermon notes) was handed to us. In the sermon we hadn't got Bibles, but after a few minutes someone behind us asked if we'd like one.

Was your pew comfortable?
Chairs were metal with upholstered seats and backs, the sort you often see in hotel conference rooms and better than the cheap polypropylene variety. Quite comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was contemporary music playing on the PA system when we came in, and again when we were leaving. The atmosphere was very casual.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, and a warm welcome to all."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Service sheet with notices on one side and sermon notes covering the other. All songs were on an OHP. Some church Bibles were available, modern version.

What musical instruments were played?
A band comprising drums, keyboard and three other musicians: four female and one male. There was a substantial mixing desk and other sound equipment at the back, and the musicians were at the side – all well planned.

Did anything distract you?
Noisy toddler early on in the service. There was very little to gaze at – no pictures, statues, plaques, stained glass windows that I could see from where we were. There were a few banners, however. It was slightly cold and some people were putting coats back on.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was casual, not in the sense of being unprepared or disorderly, but in the sense that it was informal. Those who led the service were dressed casually – no dog collars or ties. Songs were a bit happy clappy at first, but more meaningful songs followed. They were started impromptu from the congregation at least once, and there were some impromptu prayers from the congregation, too.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
40 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Amos 5 – Bethel, Beersheba and Gilgal. What the three places would have meant to Amos and his contemporaries, what their significance was in Israel's history, and the message that God was therefore giving through Amos. Israel was resisting change and transformation (it said in the sermon notes). There were also "points to ponder" in the notes, for those who wanted homework.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The informality made us feel at home. The atmosphere was quite similar to our own church. The music from the band was good, the seats were ok, it was friendly, and there was a good sermon.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Having to sing a song through three times, which was rather lacking in meaningful content.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We didn't have time to hang around, so we went out quite promptly, but it was impossible to escape without someone talking to us in a friendly fashion, telling us what else was going on. One of our party, who is a student at Falmouth, hates talking to anyone, but even he succumbed to the welcome.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Unfortunately, we couldn't partake – but at the front of the church there was a welcoming sign to the coffee lounge, and all were invited to stay for refreshments.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – There was a wide mix of ages, and although the church aims at families, people of all ages would feel welcome here. Those seeking a quiet, reflective, sacred atmosphere may wish to go elsewhere. Famous celebrities wanting a quiet life incognito would also be advised not to go unless wearing impregnable disguise and using a false voice.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, we most definitely felt part of their family.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The impossibility of attending unnoticed.
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