|809: University Lutheran, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Mainline Pilgrim.
The church: University Lutheran, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA.
Denomination: Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
The building: The church has a very German appearence, complete with a portion of exposed timber called "Fachwerk" in German. Inside, it is a trim little parish sanctuary with stained glass windows and white-washed walls.
The neighbourhood: Purdue University is perhaps Indiana's most well-known college and has over 35,000 students. Just across the street from the church stands a cluster of bars and clubs that likely reaches far more students than any of the campus churches.
The cast: Pastor Jim Barton.
What was the name of the service?
10.30am worship on the sixth Sunday after epiphany.
How full was the building?
About two-thirds full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Someone handed me a bulletin as I came in, but no one said a formal greeting.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a standard wooden church pew, of tolerable comfort.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Mostly silent, with a few people chatting quietly.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning on this sixth Sunday after epiphany."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Luther Worship Bible as a hymnal, and the New International Version of the Bible.
What musical instruments were played?
Just an organ.
Did anything distract you?
The guy sitting in front of me was wearing a staggering amount of cologne.I couldn't take a single breath without getting a powerful whiff of him, and I had a hankering for a few gasps of fresh air by the time the service was over.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was rather formal, making use of a prayer book and sung responses. This is surprising on a campus where happy-clappy worship reigns supreme.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 The sermon lacked focus on any certain point, but it had plenty of things to think about. It was also delivered well, increasing its score.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Love between two people is a good thing, but only if they are honest to each other and don't let that relationship pull them away from God. (It was the Sunday after Valentine's Day.)
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
It was a rare opportunity to worship with people my own age, without the guitars or praise singing which one normally expects from student services at Purdue.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I thought a great deal about how this church would not be a very good place to meet women, since the congregation is at least 90 per cent male, and that is not an exaggeration. I am assuming, however, that my hell would be a young lady's heaven.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I had to ask if there would be coffee after the service, as everyone was filing out, and I followed the crowd to it. Besides two people I happened to know, no one tried to strike up a conversation with me. No one seemed ready to jump out of the crowd and show a newcomer around.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Standard coffee in styrofoam cups. However, we also got doughnuts and heart-shaped cookies in honor of Valentine's Day.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 If I were a new student, this church would be great. However, with such a young congregation, I would probably do better to find a church aimed at an older crowd, as I will be graduating soon.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Certainly. I love traditional Protestant worship services, and this service had everything I could have wanted.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The church's shortage of women.