|834: Trinity Baptist, Amarillo, Texas, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: SpookyRach.
The church: Trinity Baptist Church, Amarillo, Texas.
Denomination: Southern Baptist.
The building: 1960s modern – an abundance of blonde brick with small, transom-like stained glass windows lining the top of the sanctuary walls. The large groups of silk plants at the front helped break up the starkness of the space.
The church: The church sits just off of a large interstate highway in a lower middle-class neighborhood. The congregation was made up almost entirely of white, middle-class people. It seems to be a fairly young congregation – most of the people were younger than 50 and there were many families with young children.
The cast: Dr David Evans is the pastor and preached the sermon. Dan Thompson, the music minister, led the choir and congregational singing. Tracy Ward, whom the website lists as minister of missions and recreation, made some announcements at the end of the service.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
At the beginning of the service, the building was a little over halfway full. People continued to trickle in throughout the first part of the service. When I turned to leave at the end, I was surprised to see an almost full house – including a large balcony at the back.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Four intrepid souls braved the cold to greet me just outside the doors of the church. These official greeters handed me off to a semi-official greeter midway through the entry hall, who then passed me on to the ushers at the door to the sanctuary. The ushers provided me with an order of worship and a smile. All were very friendly.
Was your pew comfortable?
Standard wooden pew with a surprisingly cushy cushion.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Busy – people wandered in from all directions, carrying on conversations begun outside. Everyone seemed well acquainted. The choir was practicing for the service. It was loud but cheerful.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Mornin' everybody. Looks like some folks are still in holiday mode – we have some holes out there."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The 1991 Baptist Hymnal was in the pew rack, but the service was conducted entirely from Powerpoint slides on the video screens. It was also BYOB – bring your own Bible.
What musical instruments were played?
Piano, organ, electric guitar, trumpet, French horn and drums. Whoever was responsible for the musical arrangements for this odd ensemble deserves high praise. The musicians were excellent – especially the trumpet and French horn players. They played what were essentially happy clappy praise songs in a reverential style that really worked well. Their performance provided balance to the service style.
Did anything distract you?
I arrived about 10 minutes early and the choir was practising in the loft behind the pulpit. They continued to practice until about three minutes before the service started, at which point canned praise music was played on the loudspeakers. The loud, overly active atmosphere made the start of the service breathlessly rushed, rather than reverential.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very casual. The music portion of the service was in the worship chorus type, but the sermon was more serious and reflective. I was pleased to see the video screens were completely turned off during the sermon, which helped focus attention on the speaker.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 The minister was very adequate. He had a thoughtful, serious style, rather than the "yell it till they believe it" approach.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Commitment to the gospel and commitment to obedience. I don't know exactly what that meant, but evidently Cain demonstrated his failure in both areas by not following Abel's example of a gospel foreshadowing blood sacrifice.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I enjoyed the enthusiasm of the congregational singing. Everyone participated and made a joyful noise of some kind.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The canned praise music. There seemed to be a fear of silence at any point during the service. The pre-service choir practice was distracting and intrusive, but playing the recorded music was just a bad idea.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It was a very busy exit. The congregation scattered quickly in all directions, headed to various Sunday school classes. I was swept along with the flow of the crowd and rushed into the parking lot. Everyone was very friendly but obviously had places to go to in a hurry.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No coffee – just classes.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 This seems to be a close-knit energetic community, but I suspect it is far too conservative for me.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes – especially their emphasis on giving to missionaries.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The worship order contained a written announcement that has stuck in my head. It was recruiting for an upcoming interchurch basketball and cheerleading league. Cheerleading? Two, four, six, eight! Whom do we all venerate? Je-sus! Je-sus! Goooo Christ! Do we really need Christian cheerleading?