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1713: Two Rivers, New Bern, North Carolina, USA
Two Rivers, New Bern, North Carolina, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Friar Tuck.
The church: Two Rivers, New Bern, North Carolina, USA.
Denomination: Non-denominational Christian.
The building: Two Rivers Church is what is often called now a "church in a box," that is, they meet in a rented facility each week. Their present venue is the auditorium of the Craven County Community College, a campus of stylish modern buildings in a woodsy setting. The auditorium is set up with a three screen rear projection system on the stage. Banner signs adorn the entrance.
The church: They are a young community, only two months old, with the goal of serving the community as evidence of the grace of God. This ambitious goal impressed me because this baby church has already taken on a "safe drinking water well" project in Africa and has raised about 50 percent of the funds needed.
The neighborhood: New Bern is located at the convergence of the Trent and the Neuse Rivers, about 90 miles north of Wilmington. Settled by Swiss and German immigrants, it was the capital of the Carolina colony and has a rich historical heritage. It is also home to three military bases. This blend of old school and new school makes for an interesting community. Famous sons include Caleb Davis Bradham, inventor of the soft drink Pepsi-Cola.
The cast: Dave McCants, lead minister, conducted the service and on the day of my visit also led the praise band. A visiting minister, Chris Long, delivered the sermon.
The date & time: Sunday, April 26, 2009, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
The Waterfront (aka Family Worship).

How full was the building?
The auditorium was about 60 per cent full, which I would guess was about 200 people. Children's programs involved about 25.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. I was welcomed by a smiling greeter and given a bulletin. I was also offered coffee, water, etc. and told to feel free to take it into the auditorium. But later on, as a first time visitor I felt very awkward during a short break about halfway through the service, when people were encouraged to get acquainted and refill their coffees. Most people seemed interested in talking to their friends, not visitors.

Was your pew comfortable?
I will never complain about uncomfortable pews again! The theater seating was akin to airline seating. Shoulder to shoulder, as if the seats were designed for very thin people. I looked forward to every opportunity to stand up!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Rock'n'roll. It was very upscale contemporary. I liked it a lot! People really seemed to be happy to be in church there that morning.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"It has been a week since we worshipped together. Did you worship him this week?"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Everything was projected onto the screens up front so no hymnals were used. Same for the scripture verses, which were all from the New International Version Bible. But printed Bibles were also available for anyone who wanted them.

What musical instruments were played?
Lead guitar, bass guitar and drum set.

Did anything distract you?
The auditorium was darkened both for worship and preaching because of the projectors. I sat near the back and the doors seemed to be constantly open, letting in full sunlight. This made me want to get up and shut the doors myself.

Two Rivers, New Bern, North Carolina, USA

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Definitely upbeat. The music was contemporary and well done. The people were engaged, with some clapping and some hands lifted in worship. Throughout there was no attempt to force anyone to do anything they were uncomfortable with. I enjoyed the worship time. The logistics of communion, though, were confusing (see below).

Exactly how long was the sermon?
23 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – The guest preacher was long on scripture verses and short on content. His attempts at humor were sophomoric and mostly fell flat. I was disappointed that the lead minister was not preaching the day I was there.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon, based on Romans 7:18-19 (man's sinful nature inhibits his doing good), was an exhortation on how to overcome the problem of sin and temptation by staying in the Word. It was a typical evangelical sermon with a largely personal pietistic application only.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
After the break, there was acoustical worship which was awesome in its simplicity. During this time the images on the screens were used skillfully to evoke a restful, dare I say sabbath day, experience.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The seats were tortuous – like being put on the rack. But the way communion was handled was really awful. As a first timer who wanted to partake of the Lord's Supper, I had to get in a long line. After finally arriving at the communion table, I was not at all sure of what we were expected to do. Some consumed the elements at the table, others took them back to their seats. I decided on the latter but felt like I was going against the tide. It was not clear if the service would continue after communion, or if it had ended. A very awkward conclusion to an otherwise very nice service.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
This is a hard question to answer for this church, since they were in tear-down mode immediately after the service ended. I did have a nice talk with one of their volunteer staff and with the lead minister. But I think they prefer to concentrate on the before-the-service greeting and break time, and not so much afterwards.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none, but there had been very nice coffee, juice, fruit, cookies, etc. before service and during the break.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – The only reservation I would have about making this church my regular church would be the seating, but they can't control that where they are meeting.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes! I would gladly be part of such a joyful, serving church.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The obvious love and commitment the lead minister and his wife have toward making Two Rivers Church a graceful community of faithful servants and followers of Jesus.
 
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