|1157: Aberfoyle Parish, Aberfoyle, Scotland|
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Mystery Worshipper: William Booth.
The church: Aberfoyle Parish, Aberfoyle, Scotland.
Denomination: Church of Scotland.
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.
The building: The church is a picturesque traditional stone building, set on a hillside and with the hills of the Trossachs in the background. The day was warm and sunny, making the building look like the classic British country church.
The church: I wasn't able to find out anything about the congregation's activities or ministries.
The neighbourhood: Aberfoyle is known as the gateway to the Trossachs, an area of mountains and lakes extending east and north and reminiscent of the English Lake District. This area is one of outstanding beauty and is very popular with tourists, both day-trippers and holiday-makers. Sir Walter Scott was a frequent visitor to the area, and used it as the backdrop for his Rob Roy and The Lady of the Lake.
The cast: No notice sheet was given out so it was rather tricky to tell. Two ladies from Ghana named Rose and Emila gave a presentation, and during the service the minister was referred to as Danny.
The date & time: Sunday, 10 July 2005, 11.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Almost empty. The building can seat nearly 200, but there were only 30 of us there, including Rose, Emilia, Danny, myself and my companion. My companion and I (in our late twenties) were the youngest in the church by some years.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were handed a hymnbook and wished a good morning as we entered. Later on a woman said hello as she joined us in our pew. At the end of the service the minister shook our hands and asked us where we were from. As my companion was very pregnant at the time, and as it was clear he assumed that we were a couple, we decided to have some fun with him and told him that we were from opposite ends of England.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was comfortable enough, and also had plenty of legroom – something this six-footer finds all too rarely. Unfortunately it was finished with that odd substance that causes one's shirt to stick to the backrest, and so I made an effort not to lean back.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The organist played and there was some quiet chatter, occasionally interrupted by short bursts of static and disembodied voices coming through the speakers.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. We'd like to welcome any visitors this morning. May your time with us be blessed."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Church Hymnary, third edition.
What musical instruments were played?
Just the organ – played very well.
Did anything distract you?
The minister spoke with a thick Scottish accent, which at times was difficult to decipher. Hardly something he could help, but distracting nonetheless!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Traditional hymn-singing. The hymns were sung well given the relatively small number of people in the building.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
2 As previously mentioned, the church had two Ghanaian visitors. Instead of a traditional sermon, they had been invited to address the church. While some parts of their talk were interesting, they went on far too long and their talk was completely disconnected from the rest of the service. A shorter interview coupled with a brief sermon would have been much better.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Rose and Emilia told a little about themselves and then talked about the Guide movement, the state of Ghana with respect to education, finance and employment, the G8 summit and the London transport bombings.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The service took place just three days after the London bombings. During the service, the minister read from the newspaper the names and brief biographies of some of those who had been killed. The congregation then sung the hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. It was simple, yet moving and very appropriate.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The same memorial to the London bombings, which served to drive home the horror and senselessness of the events. That and having to sing God save the Queen at the end of the service. I intensely dislike singing the national anthem as part of worship.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It seemed inappropriate to hang around – straight after the national anthem everyone left fairly quickly. It was obviously expected that after worship you would go straight home.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no coffee. Perhaps we should have gone to the Scottish Episcopal church down the road – they had an advertisement in the window of a local shop which stated they had refreshments after the service.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 Except for the sermon, the service was reasonable enough, and I suspect that most services are better than the one we attended. However, from what we saw, there was little sense of community within the church.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Having a little fun with the minister about our identities – presumably leaving him very confused!