|906: Redland Parish Church, Redland, Bristol, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Miss Tree Worshipper.
The church: Redland Parish Church, Redland, Bristol, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: The church was built in the 1740s and was originally a private chapel, presumably for some stately home. It now stands unpretentiously grand, set back from the main road, behind what looks like some common land and some large trees.
The church: Unusual in the Anglican world, the church is not dedicated to a saint. This is due to its original status as a private chapel.
The neighbourhood: Redland is located about a mile northwest of Bristol's city centre.
The cast: Brad Salisbury was the leader, and Donald Shell preached.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About half full. I counted between 40 to 50 people, ranging in age from 16 to 80.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was greeted at the door and given an order of service. A few people smiled as I sat down.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were pretty comfy, with padded seats. I really appreciated the leg room and didn't feel at all squashed.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Britishly friendly. I think most people there must have known each other a long time. There were lots of hellos and how is so-and-so, but quiet enough to preserve the atmosphere that is common in Anglican churches.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
Something like "Welcome to all, and especially to the young people about to receive their A level results."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
There was a service sheet handed out at the door, on which the hymns and prayers were printed. New International Version Bibles and Mission Praise song books were available in the pews.
What musical instruments were played?
For the traditional hymns, there was an organ which was nicely played. For the more modern songs, there were an electric piano, a guy with a guitar who led the singing, a drummer, and a couple of ladies on vocals.
Did anything distract you?
The decor inside the church, although quite nice, also provided plenty of distractions. Above every other pew there were cherub-heads whose lips made them look like they were trying to suck at particularly thick milkshakes through straws. At the front of the church there was a peculiar painting depicting a semi-recumbent Jesus post-crucifixion. Gathered around him were two women (one a blonde!) and an old man. It took me quite a long time to figure out that the old guy was Joseph of Arimathea and the women were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses. I did find myself puzzling over what they were doing, especially as the Jesus figure didn't really look dead.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was fairly middle of the road and seemed heartfelt. The hymns were mostly well sung, although all the ladies did seem to struggle when it came to the higher notes, as they were very high. The more modern songs reminded me of low key Christian holiday camps with a Graham Kendrick type leader who gave it his all but was let down by not having his usual backing group and decent PA system.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Oops! Forgot to time it. Pretty sure that it was about 25 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 The preacher spoke and communicated well. It sounds strange, but I was little distracted by a lack of annoying mannerisms.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was the end of a series on 1 John. The main text was taken from 1 John 5:13-21. He talked a lot about the need for our prayer requests to be guided by and in the will of God. He made some good points about how, before someone is saved, he can sin and not regret it, but a Christian will not continue to sin without feeling regret.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The generally friendly atmosphere of the church made me feel really at home. I am always impressed when a stranger is greeted before she can even get to her seat.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The prayers. They had decided not to have the usual leader of intercessions, but instead had a time of open prayer and meditation on various issues. It seemed to last forever and really could have done with being accompanied by some music or a PowerPoint show.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A couple of people said hello, asked me my name, and introduced themselves. A very nice lady directed me to the church centre for a cup of tea.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Nicely brewed fair-trade tea. I think I would have to recommend it to the tea brewers guild. It was a very nice cuppa, and people talked to me again!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 Redland wasn't as relaxed or lively as I would normally choose, but it catered for the younger as well as the older members of the church. If I lived in the area I would definitely consider going there regularly.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, I felt welcomed into a family of believers.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Those strange cherubs.