|732: Vine Evangelical, Sevenoaks, Kent, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Caleb.
The church: Vine Evangelical, Sevenoaks, Kent, England.
Denomination: Independent Evangelical.
The building: You could be excused for driving straight past this church building, as it is a well kept secret in this extremely middle to upper class area. The slightly shabby exterior hides the well kept interior.
The cast: The service was led by the elder Chris Stiven and the preaching was by another elder, Simon Duan.
What was the name of the service?
Sunday morning family worship – though one has to ask why, as the children were dismissed to Sunday school immediately after the first hymn.
How full was the building?
Probably two-thirds full, with about 40 adults and 20 children.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I received a very firm handshake at the door by someone who looked very surprised to see visitors. No one sat next to us – obviously too amazed to see strangers – but one lady did come over to say hello and ask if we were on holiday.
Was your pew comfortable?
Rows of green padded chairs for adults and smaller red plastic chairs for the children. The chairs were surprisingly comfortable, but obviously needed to be for the length of the service (1 hour and 45 minutes).
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Just before we entered the building, we heard the music group start playing and singing. It was a lovely welcome, but unfortunately the volume inside the building made any small talk before the service impossible.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome, welcome everyone to this morning service of worship."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books at all, not even a Bible. We took our own Bibles but seemed to be the only ones in the congregation who had them. The readings were taken from both the NIV and the Message. All songs and Bible readings were projected onto a screen from a computer linked projector – all very high tech – but they didn't seem to have anyone to operate the computer, so whoever was nearest at that point in time seemed to press the required button, after various, completely off-putting hand signals from the leader.
What musical instruments were played?
There was the usual miscellany of instruments: keyboard, guitar, violin, flute, oboe and drums with two singers.
Did anything distract you?
It was a gloriously hot day, so they had the back door open for some fresh air. Since the church is situated right on a main road, the speaker was in opposition to the constant flow of traffic and occasional dog barking. Also, the leader kept jumping on and off the platform, as he spoke to people in the congregation, and asked the various people to help him.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I think they were trying to be happy clappy but did not have the appropriate music for this.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 A very likeable young man; he was very easy to listen to and used a couple of props to explain his points. He had just finished a three-year Bible course, where he had obviously studied the way to preach a sermon. My only criticism is that he went on a bit too long.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Adam and Eve eating the fruit. God has given us so much, but we always want more. To get more, we shatter the goodness of what we have got. We need to be honest with both God and each other, not ashamed and hiding our sin. If we are honest God will give us a way back to him.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Watching the male singer in the music group. When he sang, he put his whole heart and soul into his worship. I hope we can all do that when we get to heaven!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The female singer in the music group who thought she had the ability to add descants to every song sung, no matter how inappropriate. The sound will echo in my ears for days to come.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
One gentleman came and spoke to us and asked where we were from, but other than that we were mostly ignored.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was a general invitation for coffee, but nothing specific and no sign of where it was being served from, so we left.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 Good preaching, but I think you would have to go for a few years before they accepted you.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, and most people seemed happy to be there.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The descant singing!