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Community Church, Peterborough, England
Community Church, Peterborough, England.
Independent. They describe themselves as "a contemporary,
charismatic, multi-cultural, community-focused church."
It looks like a shopping mall or conference centre set in a
retail park. In the foyer you could be in a modern hotel, but
there's no bar, restaurant (yet) or bedrooms, and you don't
have to book in. Entering the auditorium is like going into
a concert hall or theatre. Even the toilets are splendid, with
flower arrangements. It's new, handsomely appointed, and very
well designed and built.
It's big! The congregation come from a wide area but have community
projects in Peterborough. They let out their facilities for
conference, business and training events. There are several
small social, spiritual and recovery support group meetings
held throughout the week. Of special note is "Cleansing
Stream," a program that helps people deal with (quoting
from their website) an "unhelpful legacy" of past
hurts or wrongs in order to "clear the way for progress
on the road to spiritual maturity." They also offer groups
for children, youth and young adults. There are two services
Peterborough is a city about 75 miles north of London, mid-way
between the East Anglian coast and the Midlands. There is evidence
that the area was inhabited as far back as the Bronze Age. The
coming of the railways in the 19th century brought rapid industrial
growth, especially in brickmaking. Although in modern times
manufacturing has fallen off here as in much of elsewhere, a
strong regeneration effort has been underway for some time.
Local notables include Sir Henry Royce, first Baronet of Seaton
and co-founder of Rolls-Royce. The church is located on the
edge of Peterborough in an industrial park.
Dave Smith, pastor, and Simon Deeks, head of pastoral care.
The date & time:
Sunday, 6 September 2009, 9.15am.
What was the name of the service?
Service 1 (the earlier of the two Sunday services).
How full was the building?
About 20 per cent at kick-off, increasing to about 75 per cent
after 10 or 15 minutes. The auditorium seats 1,200.
Did anyone welcome you
They certainly did! As we drove up, a car parking attendant
smiled at us and at least six others guided us in. Someone standing
at the entrance shook our hands (no concern for swine flu here
apparently – perhaps healing prayers cover that possibility).
Once inside, we were handed A5-sized notes sheets.
Was your pew comfortable?
Upholstered banquet chairs. They were OK. No kneelers, pew rails
or places to put books (no surprises there).
How would you describe the pre-service
A bit like being in a cinema. Expectant. Lots of people with
badges and team t-shirts. There was piped pop/rock music, and
in the last five minutes a countdown on the screen to the start
of the service. The band got in position and the live music
started up on time without further introduction.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning!"The main speaker, Dave Smith, continued
with: "Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking..." which
was a joke as he'd been away for two months.
What books did the congregation use during the
None. Songs were projected onto a screen, as were Bible verses
from the New International Version. No Bibles were provided,
though I daresay you could buy one in the bookshop before the
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboards, acoustic and electric lead guitars, bass guitar,
drums, and five vocalists.
Did anything distract you?
Nothing serious – some stewards in the aisle could easily be
heard talking sometimes, and a young child and his older brother
in the row in front played happily for awhile. There was smoke
from a smoke machine wafting around, and the lighting was rather
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Definitely happy clappy and slightly reminiscent of Afro-Caribbean
worship, with a bit of call and response going on. Lots of applause
and hands in the air but no speaking in tongues. Reverent, sincere,
enthusiastic, participatory. After 20 minutes of singing, we
were invited to say hello to the people next to us. And so we
did, but there was no moving about to greet those seated elsewhere.
Later in the service, the leader invited anyone who was visiting
the church for the first time to raise their hands so a steward
could give them a welcome pack; there was some applause. In
fact, there was lots of applause in the service, and it gave
one a warm feeling to have this recognition.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 The speaker was tracked efficiently by camera (he walked
about a lot). His image was projected onto the screen, combined
effectively with Bible verses and bullet points. He had a calm,
relaxed manner. Not jokey. He was well dressed in jacket but
no tie – smart casual. His only mannerism, apart from walking
about a lot, was preceding many statements with: "How many
of you know that..." I soon realised this wasn't a question,
but was similar to Jesus saying: "Truly I tell you..."
or "Verily I say unto you..." I didn't find it irritating,
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The sermon was the first in a series, "Risks and Rewards
– Living under an Open Heaven," about giving. His
text was Matthew 6:1-4 (don't make a show of charity; God sees
you and will reward you). The sheet we were given had blanks
to fill in, at least I think that was the idea. I suppose that's
a teaching method that reinforces the message. I did it anyway,
if for no other reason than to have some notes to take away.
Which part of the service was like being in
The welcome we received. From the moment we arrived until our
last goodbye wave, it was amazing! The worship was not bad
either. I found some of the elements a bit strange, like some
form of impromptu liturgy, but I'm sure there will be many things
in heaven that will seem strange and awkward at first.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
During many of the prayers there was keyboard and/or guitar
accompaniment. I find this irritating. What's wrong with silence?
Are we afraid of it?
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
At the end of the service, the leader invited those there for
the first time to go to the welcome area for a drink. We got
ready to look lost but didn't have a chance! In the welcome
area there were a dozen or so café tables all marked "reserved."
A very pleasant young lady named Mary brought us each a drink,
gave us her personal attention for some time, and invited us
to fill in a card with our details, following which she would
send us an invitation to join a small group if we lived in the
area. She also showed us around the building. As we left, she
offered to pray for us. A steward waiting at the building entrance
to welcome latecomers to the second service waved us goodbye.
We left elated, encouraged that even in a large church it is
possible to give a personal welcome and make newcomers feel
at home if the team responsible are well organised, committed,
well trained, and supported from the top.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
I had coffee, my wife had hot water, in paper cups. The coffee was fine (I think the water was OK too). A special feature for their 21st anniversary was an abundance of small cakes arranged on a stand in the foyer. Nice.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 If we lived near Peterborough without previous church
connections we'd definitely try going there just because of
the amazing welcome we received.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes – indeed, proud!
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The welcome from Mary – wow! Or the chap who waved to us when
we drove away from the car park.
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