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753: New Creations Church, Canberra, Australia
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New Creations Church, Canberra, Australia
Mystery Worshipper: The Assiduous Surveyors.
The church: New Creations Church, Canberra, Australia.
Denomination: Apostolic Church of Australia.
The building: Because their regular building was burnt down in the bushfires of January 2003 (as can be seen in the photo above) the church is currently meeting in the gym/hall of Mt Stromlo High School. This is large, wooden hall with a stage area recessed in one wall where the band is set up.
The church: This is a biggish church. Their introduction pamphlet says they have been in the area for 20 years, have planted over 40 churches in New South Wales and are involved in missions around the world.
The neighbourhood: Typical suburban Canberra, lots of trees, plenty of grass, and a few football fields and cricket pitches around the school itself. Not exactly green, though, as there is a drought on.
The cast: This was a special event service with a visiting band called "Iron+Clay" plus two unnamed pastors.
What was the name of the service?
6pm Worship Service.

How full was the building?
By the time things got started there would have been maybe 200 people there, maybe a smidge more.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No one when we walked in. It wasn't until we had meandered over to the seats and were about to sit down that we were greeted by blonde, crimp-haired lassie with a perky, "So how are you guys?"

Was your pew comfortable?
Not so much pews but more plastic school chairs in four-seat sections. Made for a severe lack of lumbar support·

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Mixed. Aside from the people waiting around for something to happen, a number of kids had taken the advantage of it being a hall and had a game of rugby going off to the side. Meanwhile, microphone checks echoed off the walls, all of which involved incessantly counting from one to two repeatedly.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Okay, welcome to church everyone," followed by an invitation for people to come forward to start a mosh pit, which caused a good number of youth to surge forward.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
As we weren't greeted, nary a pew sheet was thrust into our hands. We had to take one that had been left on the seat in front of us. All the song words were a screen from a data projector.

What musical instruments were played?
The regular worship band had a keyboard, two guitars, bass guitar, drums and bongo drums. The visiting group, Iron+Clay, had keyboard, guitar and backing tracks.

Did anything distract you?
I tried with all my might to be distracted! But with all the flashing lights and energy up forward a small truck could have careened through the doors and no one would have noticed! Just too much was happening to be distracted by anything in particular.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very much happy clappy. In our last attempt at a visit we only caught the last song and were disappointed to see only one hand raised. This service produced all the clapping, raised hands and swaying that one would ever need.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Which sermon? There was the "giving talk" before the offertory. That went on for five minutes. The second was the evangelistic talk at the end of the concert. This one went for eight and a half minutes and included padding while the band sorted out the song they were asked to do on short notice. (To give due credit, this was a special event and the previous week we walked in and caught the last 45 minutes of the sermon.)

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – for both talks. The speaker made many in-jokes that outsiders wouldn't begin to understand and had to reassure the congregation once or twice that he was actually going somewhere with his opening illustration.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The first talk was a quick reminder that surrender of all areas of our lives to God equals release and freedom. The main call of the second talk was that all those who don't simply want religion, but want to experience the "raw and wriggly life" that Jesus offers, should come forward. (The "raw and wriggly life" was an allusion to a line of Gollum in the second Lord of the Rings movie.)

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music. The band was tight and everything was well done. Yes, the congregation was mostly young and the structural integrity of the building was sorely tested by the jumping about, but there was nothing shabby about the music's performance!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The impersonal nature of the service. That, and the incessant microphone checks.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. Not one word was uttered to us even as we left.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none! Zilch, zip, nada! Not even a crumbly, stale biscuit!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – Not a resounding "no," but the flash and bang was as if it was meant to carry you over until another hit the next week.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It made me feel glad, but whether that it is about me being a Christian, I am not entirely sure.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The guitar player for the visiting band was a particularly skilled one and I can appreciate a good Tommy Emmanuel style guitar solo along with the next guy.
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