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Church, Newtownabbey, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Newtownabbey, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
I believe they are independent but they link to the Elim
Pentecostal Churches on their website.
They meet in a warehouse in an industrial zone just outside
Belfast. Outside is fairly nondescript. Inside, the main sanctuary
is a very large rectangular space whose floor is overlaid by
cheap red carpet. There are several large ceiling height dark
green curtains taking the bad look off the exposed brickwork
and steel beams and ventilation pipes. The ceiling has 56 strip
lights, four of which have ceased to function. There is a very
simple stage area with two large video screens.
This church was founded just over a year ago and is a breakaway
from the much larger Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, Belfast's
largest congregation. According to the press, there was talk
of reconciliation but I seriously doubt that it is on the cards
anymore. The Whitewell stamp was everywhere evident throughout
Newtownabbey is a large suburb north of Belfast that was created
in 1958 from several existing villages. The area around the
church is full of warehouses and car showrooms and dodgy cafes
and betting shops, the kind of place you would only ever go
if you absolutely had to.
George McKim, senior pastor, did all the work and was supported
by a couple of other pastors later on.
The date & time:
Sunday, 10 October 2010, 6.45pm.
What was the name of the service?
The Power of the Gospel.
How full was the building?
Most of the hundreds of seats that were set out were claimed. They made a very big room look not so big after all.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
At the reception I was asked if it was my first time. When I
said it was, a very friendly lady named Linda insisted on leading
me through the complex into the main worship area. She told
me where she planned to sit in case I needed anything later.
Was your pew comfortable?
Seats were metal frames with red cushions, non-remarkable but comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service
Very noisy. It got increasingly noisier right up until the start.
I was surprised on arriving a full half-hour early (accidentally)
to find the place already heaving with bodies.
What were the exact opening words of the
The first words were sung: "I love to be in your presence, with
your people singing praises..." The first spoken words came
much later and were: "Aren't you glad to be saved?"
What books did the congregation use during the
What musical instruments were played?
Electric piano, drums, and the pastor on guitar.
Did anything distract you?
The pastor provided the most distraction himself. He is someone
of whom it may truly be said that if you tied his two hands
together he wouldn't be able to speak! He possesses possibly
the widest repertoire of hand gestures I have ever witnessed.
I seriously doubt a single word left the man's lips that was
not accompanied by some kind of gesticulation. I started to
name his moves; my favourites were: The axe, when he appeared
to try to chop his Bible in two with his hand; the butterfly,
which looked exactly like he was swimming that stroke; and opening
the curtains, in which he appeared to be opening and closing
curtains repeatedly and very quickly! At one point he also hoisted
his Bible aloft and started waving it around wildly, which earned
him rapturous applause, but this crowd would clap for anything
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The pastor led himself playing guitar. The music was quite intense
and the content highly emotional. Virtually everyone was carried
along and clapped the whole way.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
38 minutes plus a 30 minute appeal.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 Apart from the wild gesticulations, Pastor McKim had
the most annoying habit of constantly stopping and asking the
congregation to repeat some word or other that he had just voiced.
At first it wasn't too bad, but we ended up being asked even
to repeat words like "but"! He also constantly asked
people to say certain things to the person beside you, like
tell them it's good to be saved, etc. Thankfully the man beside
me wasn't playing that game!
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
His text was Matthew 9:35-10:1 (the itinerant ministry of Jesus
and commissioning of the Twelve), which he simply rehashed running-commentary
style with an unfortunate lack of imagination and way too much
Christian insider-speak: "Jesus was active. Jesus was loving.
Jesus was concerned. Jesus sent."
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
I liked that the congregation clapped a lot. I mean, these guys
clapped every chance they got – large, generous rounds of applause.
Throughout the service we clapped enthusiastically for the guys
who filled in the pot-holes in the car park; the prospect of
Sunday school beginning next week; someone's birthday; the fact
that the preacher had recently been invited to speak to government
heads; and on and on. I think it was a bit overdone, but it
is good to be so ready to celebrate and unleash some joy into
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The 30 mind-numbingly long minutes of appeal that followed the
38 minute sermon. During this time, I ran the emotional gamut
starting out in disbelief, then became angry and frustrated,
wanting to scream or blow myself up, until finally I was utterly
broken and began to despair of life itself. I would have gladly
fallen on my knees in the end and begged him please just to
stop talking, if only I thought it would work. At least
five times he promised we would sing this chorus for the last
time and then go for coffee, but every time he just kept on
going. Even Dante's ninth circle couldn't get much worse than
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't. I wanted to, but my patience finally wore out as the
service dragged on. So I made a break for the door when I got
the chance. As I left, an elderly woman placed her hand on my
shoulder and told me I was going to be "one of the significant
ones" – this was a reference to something the pastor had
mentioned during the appeal. I thanked her and ran away into
How would you describe the after-service
Unfortunately I didn't get that far.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 Under no circumstances will I ever darken the door
of this place again!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
At moments, undeniably yes, but it was all ruined in the end
by that appeal.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
On the welcome screen there was a message describing the church
as "the place where dreams are birthed." But for me
it was a nightmare!
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