|Comment on this report, or find other reports.
|Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you'd like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.
|Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.
Crescent Church, Belfast, Northern Ireland
|Mystery Worshipper: Servetus.
The church: Crescent
Church, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Denomination: Independent evangelical with a Brethren background.
The building: It is an impressive traditional looking stone building, with
a high bell-tower that soars above the busy street directly
below. Through the all-glass front entrance there is a
fairly large narthex where a collection box is stationed
right in the middle of the floor. The sanctuary itself
has a spacious balcony area. There is a raised pulpit
directly in front of an imposing pipe-organ and a large
stained-glass window set behind the organ. The raised
pulpit appears to be redundant as there is now a large
screen erected directly in front of it. The corner areas
at the front downstairs are very grubby looking indeed
– wires dangling and exposed plaster on display.
The church: They claim over a century of witness to the immediate area,
including outreach every Friday night, and they have a
special interest in international students. Indeed there
were many student age people in attendance when I visited.
For many years there was a special Bible study every Tuesday
night aimed mainly at young people, and it was one of
the cool Christian hangouts.
The neighbourhood: The church is situated on busy University Road in the heart
of the student and nightlife district. The highly prestigious
Queen's University is no more than 100 metres or so away.
In the other direction, Shaftesbury Square is a mere stone's
throw away. Shaftesbury Square is reminiscent of Times
Square in New York, only way smaller, and is always buzzing
– it is the square that never sleeps. There are
many businesses operating during the day, and it can be
total chaos at night, especially when all the major clubs
and restaurants begin to empty.
The cast: The service was led by a man named David and the preaching was
undertaken by Norman C. Nevin, M.D., professor emeritus
in medical genetics, Queen’s University of Belfast.
The date & time: Sunday, 19 September 2010, 7.00pm.
What was the
name of the service?
How full was
There were three people in the balcony upstairs and the
ground floor was fairly full. However, due to the high
roof and lack of heating it had quite an empty feel.
welcome you personally?
Three separate welcomers shook my hand. They smiled warmly
and told me they were glad to have me.
Was your pew
The pew was deceptively comfortable at first but became sorer as the
How would you
describe the pre-service
I arrived immediately after David began to open the service so most
were inside already, but there was still considerable movement in the
narthex while I was finding a pew.
What were the
exact opening words of the
Unfortunately I didn't get in on time to hear them.
What books did
the congregation use during the
instruments were played?
Many musical instruments were scattered around on the stage, but only
the grand piano was in use this evening. It was played very competently
by a young man.
Did anything distract
Tonight's service was brought to us by the letter "S"
– I'm not sure whether it was the microphone or
the speaker himself but every time he voiced a sibilant
S it seemed to trail quite badly – I think there's
a name for this but I can't remember what it is. There
was an unusually high occurrence of S's so it became quite
grating after a while. Also someone near me passed wind
(yes, I did hear it!) and another person's mobile phone
went off twice!
Was the worship
stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
There were only two short hymns and then a quick prayer.
The sermon (see below) took up the remaining time. A woman
beside me really let it all out in fine style –
not sure she was always in tune, however!
long was the sermon?
40 minutes, with a brief interval for questions.
On a scale of
1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – Dr Nevin spoke quite slowly and deliberately.
He had a lot of PowerPoint slides, and his talk was a
hybrid of lecture and sermon.
In a nutshell,
what was the sermon
The title: "Do Miracles Occur Today?" One installment
of a series on apologetics. He began by saying that the
word "miracle" is used with too much flippancy these days
and gave the example of Captain Chelsea Sullenberger,
the airline pilot who emergency-landed his plane in the
Hudson River. Also, one's view of miracles is conditioned
by one's world view. He went on to discuss the miracles
wrought by Jesus and the resurrection and finished with
a story about a modern medical miracle (see below).
Which part of
the service was like being in
The story of the modern miracle. Dr Nevin spoke
of a lady named Mary Self, who had contracted a particularly
nasty form of cancer while young but made a full recovery,
only to be told soon after that she had but a short time
to live. However, people started praying for her, and
when she returned to the hospital the doctors were totally
astounded to discover no trace of the disease whatsoever.
And which part
was like being in... er... the other place?
At the start of the service, David (the service leader)
looked at me sternly over the top of his spectacles and
for a few seconds he seemed to be telling me, "I know
who you are and why you have come but I am on to you!"
Could have been my imagination. But at the end of the
service, while I was hanging around in the narthex, I
watched the deacon casually open up the collection box
and remove and unfold the Mystery Worship calling card.
I took that as my cue to make a hasty exit.
when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I milled about in the narthex area after the service and
there were lots of people chatting. Several people appeared
to notice me standing alone pretending to be interested
in the literature but didn't feel the need to talk to
me. Well, I guess human contact can be over-rated anyway!
How would you
describe the after-service
There was no tea nor any kind of refreshments. Amazingly
this did not seem to hinder most people from standing
around and chatting avidly for the whole ten minutes or
so I remained.
How would you
feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
5 – Even though there were lots of younger people here, it
actually felt quite stuffy and conservative.
Did the service
make you feel glad to be a
Mildly happy but it failed really to stir my soul.
What one thing
will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
To be honest it wasn't all that memorable. I've almost
forgotten it already!
|We rely on voluntary donations to stay online. If you're a regular visitor to Ship of Fools, please consider supporting us.
|The Mystery Pilgrim
| One of our most seasoned reporters makes the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Read here.
| Read reports from 70 London churches, visited by a small army of Mystery Worshippers on one single Sunday. Read here.