|743: Moreton Baptist, Moreton, Gloucestershire, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Chris Churchcrawler.
The church: Moreton Baptist, Moreton, Gloucestershire, England.
Denomination: Evangelical Independant Baptist.
The building: One of very few rural chapels still in use, situated in a series of narrow lanes with high hedges. The chapel is a small whitewashed building of 1834 with Y traceried windows and a hipped chapel roof. It has a modern extension. The interior is original to 1834, with large pine pulpit, pews and a central arch with a painted text: "The Lord God Reigneth".
The church: Very much a rural church. The members of the congregation seemed to live in the scattered cottages and farms nearby. Many of them left Thornbury Baptist (one mile away) because of that church's charismatic style of worship. The worship here is traditional, and this is a very friendly church.
The neighbourhood: The people attending are typical country folk. The farms here are very old. There are 17th century and even some medieval farms here. The chapel is a part of the history of this place.
The cast: Alister from Grace Baptist in Westerleigh – which meets in an old Congregational chapel.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Twenty people in a small chapel – very good. The sideman said it was a low turn-out.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Several people came over and said hello, including the organist.
Was your pew comfortable?
I sat in a typical chapel pew at the back, and yes, it was very comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People sat quietly while the organ played and then the deacons and preacher filed in procession from the vestry to the pulpit.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to Moreton Baptist Church..."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
An old Baptist hymnal.
What musical instruments were played?
An electric organ below the pulpit and a piano.
Did anything distract you?
Several things. The rural feeling of the chapel, which stands next to some fields. Also the preacher was very short and looked just like John Travolta with a bald head and quiff. He had the same facial expressions and I had to stifle a giggle.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
In spite of the "Evangelical Baptist" label, such churches tend to be very traditional in their manner of worship. There are two other such churches in Bristol – one of which has a famous organ. The hymns were all ones you would hear at a good solid Prayer Book Anglican church, except of course the singing was far superior! I was quite surprised by the style of worship, as I was expecting twanging guitars and country and western style drums! A small pipe organ would be a big improvement here, I think.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
It was long - 46 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 The preacher had an unusual Scottish accent. Despite his John Travolta looks, he was very small and peeped over the pulpit!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was based on Exodus chapter 3, about the preparation of God's people for going into the promised land. Alister gave a very good, concise exposition of the passage and related it well to our modern-day situation.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Being in a friendly rural church. It was an experience of something which is now dying out. You could hear the West Country accents when the congregation sang.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Not knowing what to expect before entering the building. With the words "Evangelical Baptist" plastered on the noticeboard, I was dreading a full blown middle of the road rock concert, which seems pretty much the tradition of Baptist Union churches these days. Had I known the reality, I would have been more at ease.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Everyone spoke to me! Many people talked about the local area and the isolation of the chapel, although they were all positive about the future. I was invited into coffee in the hall and chatted to a few people.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Nice tea and biccies.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 I prefer traditional hymns and music and a friendly atmosphere. I also like places of worship with a bit of history, which this church has.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I certainly did.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The friendly, rural nature of this church in the fields.