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780: Kirkliston Parish Church, Kirkliston, West Lothian
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Kirkliston Parish Church, West Lothian, Scotland
Mystery Worshipper: Phaedrus.
The church: Kirkliston Parish Church, West Lothian, Scotland.
Denomination: Church of Scotland.
The neighbourhood: They use a former neighbouring church (now called the Thomas Chalmers Centre) as a church hall. The gardens round the church are neat and well maintained although sadly some headstones have been knocked over recently. The church is at the top of a hill and stands out from the surrounding residential area; in fact I was on my way to another church when I stopped on impulse.
The cast: Rev. Glenda Keating.
What was the name of the service?
Morning worship.

How full was the building?
It was more than half full downstairs although there were just a few people in the balconies.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. There were three people in the porch distributing hymnbooks who welcomed me, asking if I was visiting and where I was from. One or two of the congregation said good morning when I went inside.

Was your pew comfortable?
Surprisingly so, since they were very traditional pews: there was a cushion and plenty of leg room. I sat in a side pew with room for three but no-one tried to crowd me. There was a ledge with a pew Bible and a card for requesting prayers by a separate prayer group.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was a fair amount of bustle. A few people who were probably office bearers (they had badges with names but no titles) could be seen seeking people out.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome to the house of God."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The pew Bibles were in the Good News Bible version, and the hymns were from Mission Praise and the wee red book – the Church Hymnary.

What musical instruments were played?
There was a piano downstairs and a pipe organ upstairs. The pianist served double duty as the organist so had to be up and down a few times.

Did anything distract you?
Just prior to the sermon there was a sudden outbreak of sweetie paper rustling – I had thought a mint to see you through the sermon died out a generation ago. Also, at the start of the service the minister said that three of the hymns had been chosen by the congregation and that it would be fairly obvious which. She pointed out two during the service, but I wasted a fair bit of time trying to work out which was the third.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fairly staid, with on-cue chuckling for the minister's jokes. Nevertheless, people seemed very at ease and I didn't hear anyone tut when a child starting crying.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
13 minutes.

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

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
She asked the question, "Ever felt a fraud?" and then continued a sporting theme which had been started earlier in the service. We are running a race. It's our race, so we're not to be envious of folk with easier races, and we run it for Christ.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sermon was very apt for my personal situation and kept my attention.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I found the singing uninspiring. The hymns felt very dated and no one seemed to be very happy singing them. I like my hymns a little more modern.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
As soon as the service was over the family in front turned round and asked if I knew where to go for coffee. When I said I didn't they offered to take me over. Without them as guides I might not have gone. They were very friendly and introduced me to other people, including the minister.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
A choice of tea or coffee, with biscuits.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – It was very welcoming with a clear message in the sermon.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Most people were dressed very conservatively, but the people on duty in the porch were very brightly dressed. Was this a coincidence? Were they picked as greeters because of their dress sense, or did they dress like this because they knew they would be welcoming folk and wanted to give a good first impression? I'm almost tempted to go back just to find out.
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