|880: Central Baptist, Dundee, Scotland|
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Mystery Worshipper: Aileen.
The church: Central Baptist, Dundee, Scotland.
The building: A red sandstone outside, with a modern door leading into the entrance hall. It is totally disabled friendly, with a ramp from the entrance and lifts to the ground floor and balcony. Inside, the pink-painted ceiling is held up by wide arched wooden beams. A cross hangs above the congregation. At the front are organ pipes, but not for music. They hold a large screen for Powerpoint! Smaller screens are all over so that everyone can view them. There was also a video of the service coming up on the screen at times. A student said it was the most technologically advanced church she had ever seen. There is a platform at the front with a baptistry.
The church: All ages, with all types included, from elderly men in jackets and ties, to students and young people in trendy garb. Apart from the Scots, there were many other nationalities there, presumably connected with the university.
The neighbourhood: Dundee is the home of "Jute, Jam and Journalism", and is the birthplace of the Dandy and the Beano. Just round the corner from the church is a statue of Desperate Dan.
The cast: Rev. James R. Clarke.
What was the name of the service?
Service of Worship and Believers' Baptism.
How full was the building?
It was full, upstairs and downstairs.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
People were standing at the door welcoming us with a smile and a word or two, giving us the service leaflet, and directing us to where we could all sit together (there were five of us).
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes it was a light wood pew in the balcony with pinkish-beige cushions and a ledge for books. Downstairs they had wooden chairs with similar cushions.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was busy, hectic, with people greeting and waving to each other. The excitement and energy had the place buzzing. It was also very hot and steamy because of the sunny day and the warm water in the baptistery.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening, friends, and welcome to this service of baptism. Please relax and take off your jackets to make yourselves comfortable."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A printed order of service which included the words of songs chosen by those being baptised. Other hymns were projected by Powerpoint.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, flute, drums, keyboard, guitars, singers.
Did anything distract you?
As the five people were baptized, we could see it happening in reality, and it was also videoed and projected onto the screens. So my eyes were flipping from one to the other. Which should I concentrate on?
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The music group played well. Everyone sang the hymns and songs enthusiastically; there was some clapping of hands when there were tunes with a definite rhythm. This was like Scots clapping to country dance music, with everyone, old and young, joining in. A few hands were raised in the balcony, swaying around.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
"Commitment", which is unfashionable, with the example of the G8 countries refusing it. Commitment to a relationship with God means people carry on Jesus' work to transform the world, heal and help others. It brings guaranteed privileges, God with us 24/7, and a perfect future with our names written in the Book in heaven. Jesus says, "I love you, I love you, I love you," and we will experience this love overwhelming us if we commit ourselves to God.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Listening to the five baptismal candidates each giving their testimonies (three teenagers and two grownups), and then watching them being immersed with the words, "At your request and on your confession of faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, I baptize you..." Then they were hugged, if they wished, after they rose up again. The only woman was wrapped in a huge towel. Afterwards they, and four other women, were given the right hand of fellowship and welcomed into membership.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Someone near me was coughing and choking persistently during the service. He wasn't the only one swigging from a bottle of water.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were told in a friendly way by several people where to go (the entrance hall area) for refreshments. One warned us that it would be "a bit of a crush tonight". Once we got down there, it was so busy that only a few people greeted us.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea and instant coffee, squash and biscuits. Brown plastic holders for the white plastic cups. We had to worm our way through the crush to get it.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 I liked the mixture of people and the way folks did try to look after us. The "CBC News" magazine informed me about so many groups and activities the congregation is involved in. It sounds like a real, live community.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, definitely. Everything was so full of life and joy, whilst accepting the difficulties that surround us.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The buzz and excitement of the congregation.