|725: St Luke's, Highwoods, Colchester, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Marvin K. Mooney.
The church: St Luke's, Highwoods, Colchester, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: The church is a church-plant from St John's Church, now meeting in the local community centre. The building itself is fairly modern, brick-built in the 1990s, and all on one level. Inside, it is bright and airy, and the room where the congregation meets is quite high and spacious, and has windows in the ceiling.
The church: The church community ranges in age from small babies to the Victoria cell group (mentioned during the service) which meets in a local elderly care home. It is, however, predominantly comprised of young families and 20-35 year olds.
The neighbourhood: Meeting in the community centre, this church is in the centre of the estate. The local bus routes to/from the centre of town stop just outside the building. This would make the church ideally positioned for those without a car, if the bus services ran early enough to arrive in time for the service. They don't. Opposite the church is the local supermarket.
The cast: Rev. Peter Cook led the service, celebrated communion and operated the projector; a woman called Joy lead the music group.
What was the name of the service?
Family service with Holy Communion.
How full was the building?
The church was mostly full. As the 11-14 group were away this Sunday, I guess it would normally be bursting at the seams.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
As I walked in the door, I was greeted simultaneously by the bouncer/greeter, his daughter and the minister (who walked in behind me). Between then and the start of the service, I was greeted personally by four more adults and a toddler. After the service, a further six people welcomed me to their church. All of them said that it was nice to see a new face in their church.
Was your pew comfortable?
The seating was about as comfortable as plastic chairs ever get.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The pre-service atmosphere was full of busy-ness: the music group were doing last minute run-throughs of all the songs; the overhead projector operator was getting the acetates in order; the minister was checking the video projector; and someone – I assume he was a church warden of some description – was preparing the communion table.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. It's really nice to welcome you here this morning; and any visitors."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Everything was displayed on the screen for the congregation, using either the OHP or the video projector. All Bible verses were taken from the New International Version and the communion liturgy was from Common Worship.
What musical instruments were played?
There were six people in the music group: Joy (singing and guitar), two more singers, a flautist, keyboard-player and the drums.
Did anything distract you?
Where to start? There was so much going on around the room, that it was hard not to be distracted! There were a number of banners around the walls. The one that kept drawing my attention said: "Free in the Love of God". The first time I misread it. There were various tall people between me and the screen, particularly in the front three rows for some reason. Stopping others from reading the screen can't have been their sole intention. There was one thing that kept me distracted for a good portion of the service. One man took his wife (I presume) and toddler out to the creche, and returned (minus wife and child) carrying a power drill in its case. I can see that this may be more useful than a toddler, but surely his wife cooks better.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fairly happy-clappy; the songs seemed to be taken from Songs of Fellowship books.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The fact that the minister ditched his sermon in favour of praying for the situation in Iraq.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The banners. They may have turned the secular community centre into a place more focused for worship, but I found the ones on the front wall, especially, diverted my attention away from God, rather than towards him.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I hung around, but I guess that the coffee hatch was so obvious that no one felt it necessary to point it out. However, people did tell me that it was nice to see a new face.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The coffee was in plastic cups with cup-holders. It wasn't the worst I've tasted, but I lost mine as soon as I could.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 This would be a good church for a young family with a car.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. We all prayed together, as a group of Christians, then celebrated communion together. A very powerful combination.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I'll probably still be wondering about the power-drill.