|970: First Southern Baptist, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Son of a Preacher
The church: First Southern Baptist Church of Las Vegas, 700 East St Louis Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Denomination: Southern Baptist.
The building: Looks more like a large house than a church from the side we approached it. Inside it looks like a 1970s build. The pulpit had a highly distracting flower arrangement on it. The light shades were a dirty white plastic and had gold crosses stuck on them. The windows were covered in poor quality mock stained glass that drew the eye in a most unwanted manner. There was an American flag in the sanctuary.
The church: Located near Las Vegas's main strip, this is the only evangelical church that advertises in the Yellow Pages. It describes itself as "ministering to the total family."
The neighbourhood: Quite an unremarkable street given the city it is in.
The cast: Preacher/leader shown on the "Sermon Notes" sheet as the Rev. Samuel O. Stevenson, although on the week's notice sheet he was shown as Brother Samuel Stevenson, interim pastor.
What was the name of the service?
Evening Worship Service.
How full was the building?
Assuming nine to a pew, the capacity of the church is just under 300. We started with about 20 and ended up with 27 once everyone had arrived. The congregation were mainly elderly, although there were a couple of children.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A welcome sign was posted on the door. We had a brief conversation with some people to explain that we were visiting from England. We were given an order of service and weekly notice sheet.
Was your pew comfortable?
Wooden pew with cushions. Average comfort.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Fairly quiet due to the small congregation.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome" (loudly) "that got your attention!"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Baptist Hymnal.
What musical instruments were played?
Piano and guitar.
Did anything distract you?
It would probably be easier to describe what didn't distract me. The room's overall shabby appearance was most distracting, as was my wife's indulging in a certain nervous habit that drives me up the wall in the best of times.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Worship was limited, as the interim pastor decided to drop the published order of service. We sang only one hymn and were then entertained by "The Five Js", who consisted of Jerry (an elderly lady with an oxygen cylinder), her sister Jane (on guitar), her daughter (name not given, but presumably starting with J), another sister no longer of this world but likewise not named, and Jesus. They sang a number of songs, some of which they had written themselves. Most were a bit too country and western in style for my tastes.
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?
Not to worry (based upon Psalm 37). However, it took several minutes for me to work this out, as the preacher pronounced worry as "werry". He explained that it was all right to be concerned, but that we should not worry about things. Concern will accomplish something. Werry (sorry, worry) will wear and weigh you down. We should admit our problems to the Lord.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Seeing the elderly lady wheel her oxygen cylinder to the front of the church and sing praises to the Lord, although she was clearly unwell.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The preacher's pronunciation of worry, the dirty light shades, and the fake stained glass.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A nearby couple were keen to engage us in conversation about our holiday. Some others shook our hands.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There wasn't any. The elders seemed keen to shut up the church, so much so that one of them turned out the light in the gents' toilet whilst I was still using it.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 Nice people, but the worship was far too restrained and the preaching not direct enough.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The oxygen cylinder.