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Baptist, Hoole, Chester, England
Hoole, Chester, England.
of Great Britain.
A very plain brick building with arched windows. They actually
meet for worship in the community centre next door; the church
itself was used for after-service coffee. The church consists
of a rectangular room with large open spaces furnished with
sofas. There was plenty of room to socialise. The community
centre, on the other hand, is a very dated and dull building.
The entrance was hard to find and no signage was provided. The
room had no carpet in the main hall and no real decoration,
and was split into two halves by a partition wall that opened
up. There were windows along one side of the room, but even
so, it was fairly dark in the building.
The congregation was established about 60 years ago and is community
based, with not many traveling in from the outside. Everyone
seemed to know each other well. They seem to have a lot going
on, e.g. a football team. There are a number of groups especially
directed toward men. They pride themselves on cordial ecumenical
relationships with other churches in the area.
Hoole is a suburb to the east of Chester, a city in Cheshire
near the border with Wales. Its name is believed to mean "at
the hole," perhaps referring to a Roman road. It is a residential
area with Victorian terraced houses, and is home to many hotels,
guest houses, and bed and breakfasts. The church is located
in a section of Hoole that doesn't particularly stand out from
The Revd Andy Glover, minister (apparently – we had to
ask to find out!), led the service. Someone whose name was not
given opened with a reading from Isaiah. The minister was wearing
a fleece and I did not recognise him from the beginning, nor
did he introduce himself.
The date & time:
Sunday, 13 December 2009, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Fairly full – more than two-thirds.
Did anyone welcome you
Road signs pointed to the church, but there was no board outside
and nothing on the walls inside to indicate that this was a
church or when the service times were. Likewise there was no
notice that worship would be held in the adjoining community
centre. We heard music and followed the sound, stopping to ask
a gentleman where we should go. Once we arrived, we were handed
a leaflet. After sitting down, we were greeted by a gentleman
sitting next to us, as well as by a couple who arrived after
we did and sat near us.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, it was comfortable, but warm (we had chosen a seat by a
radiator) and somewhat cramped. I banged heads twice with person
in front of me as we sat down.
How would you describe the pre-service
We arrived 10 minutes before service time but the place was
very empty. The band were playing softly. We feared that this
would be just another empty service. But on the dot at 10.30
everyone suddenly walked in. It was almost as if they had been
congregating elsewhere until the right moment. Some people arrived
later – see below.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Hello. Welcome to the third Sunday in Advent. We are going
to do a reading from Isaiah."
What books did the congregation use during the
Worship music projected onto a screen. The screen was difficult
to see due to the shape and layout of the room, plus there were
Christmas decorations in the way. There were some Bibles scattered
around on various seats, but they must have been the extra-sharp-vision
edition, as the print was very small and very difficult to read.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, guitar and drums.
Did anything distract you?
The layout of chairs was distracting and annoying; a moment's
thought could have made for a better arrangement all around.
As latecomers arrived, they had to walk past the front to get
a seat – I'm sure they felt intimidated by everyone else eyeballing
them. I also had the feeling that I obviously stood out as a
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
There were prayers during the service, all ad-libbed either
from the front or by someone in the congregation. A communion
service was included at the end of the minister's talk following
a time of quiet reflection. The elements were passed round to
each individual person to take. The music was easy listening
style, although contemporary, mid 90s. Not challenging. During
one hymn, "The light of the world," we sang the chorus
over and over again but for some reason left out the verses!
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 I didn't realise straight away that Pastor Glover had
started. He mentioned some biblical passages but didn't tell
us where to find them. They were not projected onto the screen.
I had a panicky feeling as I thumbed rapidly through the extra-small-print
pages trying to find what he was referring to, but he was done
long before I succeeded. The sermon was repetitive and it was
hard to know what his point was. There were no illustrations,
visual or by way of example.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
He referred to Hebrews 1 (God spoke in the past through prophets,
but in these days through his Son). God speaks. How should we
listen? (I don't think he ever actually answered that question.)
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
Someone was moved to speak in tongues. A lady went forward and
spoke to the minister, who then told us that she had a tongue.
He explained quite well what this was, and then she began to
speak. The minister asked if anyone had an interpretation, and
after a brief silence another lady who was sitting down spoke
out. We then went back to the time of silence. No one in the
service said anything or reacted in any way. I was surprised
that this felt not in the least uncomfortable – in fact,
it was heavenly!
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
We felt very much out of place in a closed community. No welcoming
words for newcomers were spoken. I'm not sure they get many
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
There was no mention of what a visitor should do, no housekeeping
or welcome. The pastor's wife (we think) came to talk to us,
but as soon as we told her we were visiting on holiday, she
seemed to lose interest. We asked her if there was coffee, but
she told someone else to show us. It just felt like we had been
dismissed! To that other person's credit, though, she escorted
us to the coffee and spoke with us until it was time to leave.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
Tea in proper mugs, which was OK.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 I'm not sure we would be embraced. I would also feel
wound up by the things done poorly which could easily be rectified.
Overall it felt like an easy listening concert, not dynamic
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Generally, yes. Despite it all, it was a time of quiet reflection.
It felt safe.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The fact that latecomers had to enter in full view of everyone
else. Had I been late, and not Mystery Worshipping, I would
have been reluctant to enter under those conditions.
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