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1547: Banchory West Parish, Banchory, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Banchory West Parish, Banchory, Aberdeenshire
Photo: Stanley Howe
Mystery Worshipper: Wandering Star.
The church: Banchory West Parish, Banchory, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Denomination: Church of Scotland.
The building: An austere looking stone structure with clock tower standing in the town centre. The foundation stone was laid in 1879 and the building was completed by 1880 at a cost of £3,000. I didnít see inside the church, as the service I attended took place in the hall. Photos found on various websites picture a blue and pink walled interior with brown wooden pews and a brown organ case.
The church: They encourage their members to join teams such as worship support, pastoral care, outreaches, education, youth groups, etc., where each member can best contribute to the life of the parish. They appear especially committed to building relationships between young people and older generations. One of the people I spoke with told me that the different churches in Banchory work very well together, and that she had never before experienced such willingness among fellowships to collaborate.
The neighbourhood: Banchory lies about 20 miles west of Aberdeen on the River Dee. It is the largest town in the area, and its fine High Street and other facilities attract locals and visitors alike. Apparently the town is growing rapidly, with new development at the Hill of Banchory. This is a very picturesque area of Scotland. Nearby is Royal Deeside, the site of Balmoral Castle. Just outside the town are the Falls of Feugh, where I saw sea trout leaping upstream. A natural example of dogged determination.
The cast: I don't know. I actually wondered if any of the people leading the service were ordained clergy.
The date & time: Sunday, 10 June 2007, 6.00pm.

What was the name of the service?
Praise and Worship.

How full was the building?
One-third full – about 30 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A lady named Frances, or perhaps Pauline (sorry, I didn't take very good notes), came to speak to me as soon as I walked in. She asked me where I was from and said that this would be a very informal gathering.

Was your pew comfortable?
Individual chairs were comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Some quiet conversation among the congregation as they arrived. The worship band was practising and those running the service were discussing the format.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good Evening. Let me introduce the theme of this evening's very informal service: 'There's no place like home.'"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. All the words for the worship songs and hymns were on the overhead projector. Later on we were given small strips of paper containing discussion starter questions.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano, guitar, bass guitar and drums.

Did anything distract you?
I kept wondering about how the various people who led the service were associated with the church.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was fairly relaxed and very pleasant, yet snappy enough to keep one's attention. There were inspirational songs, readings from scripture, and a dramatic presentation followed by discussion groups.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
There wasn't a sermon as such, but rather a dramatic presentation.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – All participants appeared genuine and enthusiastic. The presentation had apparently been put together rather swiftly, but it came across very well. The people involved were obviously used to working together.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
There had been a reading earlier from Philippians 2 (Be not selfish, but humble, as Christ humbled himself on the cross). The presentation was entitled "Tom, Dick, Harry and Epaphroditus." Tom asked someone in his fellowship to volunteer to visit Paul in prison to look after his needs. Both Dick and Harry had excuses, but Epaphroditus, although not in top form due to illness, willingly offered to make the journey. Epaphroditus was not a person of any distinction; he was merely a servant. Like Epaphroditus, Christ Jesus made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
We sang Stuart Townend's (the British writer of contemporary worship songs) version of "The Lord's my Shepherd" with its lovely chorus of "I will trust in you alone." The congregation managed the descant with no prior rehearsal. It was indeed heavenly. I also enjoyed the post-presentation discussion. Even though I was with people I had never met before, our common belief and faith were immediately evident.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
It was a bit scary arriving at the venue of the meeting. For a few moments I wasnít sure at all that I had come to the right place. The entrance to the hall was at the end of a dark passageway, complete with rather spooky shadows.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Having exhausted all conversation with Frances/Pauline beforehand and in the post-sermon discussion breakouts, I must admit I made a fairly hasty exit. I think the service was to be followed by a youth meeting.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea and coffee in china cups, along with biscuits and juice if desired.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – I certainly would give the church another visit. I was impressed with the enthusiasm and sense of cooperation and obvious international mission.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. I felt as though I had been encouraged and challenged to serve our Father to the best of my ability. In any case, it made me remember just how much we are loved.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
How people working within a church can make a difference wherever they are.
 
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