Central, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
They have moved around quite a bit lately. They previously
used the student union building in Queen's University, and
not long before that they met in the Oh Yeah music centre
in Belfast's cathedral quarter. At present they meet in the
Crescent Arts Centre, a Victorian-era listed building on University
Road that formerly housed a ladies' school. It was extensively
refurbished between 2008 and 2010. Redeemer Central meets
in a room fittingly called the Cube, as it is literally a
square room. There are no windows and the room is defined
mainly by the long black curtains that cover all four walls.
The stage area is right in the centre where the band play
and the loudspeakers stand. Around the centre there are circular
coffee tables and chairs; each table sits around four or so
people. Off to the front there is another table upon which
sat a loaf of bread and several glasses of what looked like
wine or perhaps fruit juice.
This church is part of a 200-or-so strong network of UK churches
who unite under the banner of Newfrontiers.
Their aims are outreach, community transformation, leadership
training and accountability.
It's very near the centre of Belfast and right in the heart
of a cosmopolitan and thriving area that boasts lots of cultural
attractions, including museums, theatres, the prestigious
Queen's University, and a plethora of trendy and arty hangouts
The service was led by David Capener, who came here from England
specifically in order to plant this fellowship.
The date & time:
Sunday, 29 May 2011, 10.30am.
What was the name of
City Group Sunday.
How full was the building?
There were some empty seats but the body-to-room ratio felt
about right. It's not that big and the coffee-bar layout made
it feel a lot more full than it really was.
Did anyone welcome you
Yes. As soon as we entered we were welcomed by an extraordinarily
helpful guy who introduced himself as David. He asked us about
ourselves and how we came to be here this morning. He made
us tea and coffee, gave us a history of the church, and after
showing us the layout and explaining how the service would
work he helped us find suitable seats. He must have spent
10 or 15 minutes with us. Very impressed indeed.
Was your pew comfortable?
Steel tubular frame and flexible laminated wooden back
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Because we were engaged in conversation for most of the time,
I didn't get to soak up the atmosphere. But a gentle murmur
pervaded the room up to the start.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"Welcome, welcome. Good morning."
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
What musical instruments
Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, and drums.
Did anything distract
Some children were playing games openly on their iTablets
and iPhones at a table near me. It was a racing car game and
looked quite good. They didn't even go out to the kiddie group
with the rest of the children! Also the sound guy was constantly
fiddling with the knobs and I couldn't for the life of me
understand why. I'm no expert but I thought once the levels
are set correctly there is very little adjustment to be made.
Ironically, later on when he was away from the desk, there
was a really loud feedback screech that nearly deafened us!
Oh yes, and one of the guitarists looked very like Edwin van
der Sar, long-serving goalkeeper for Manchester United football
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Well, when you get a bunch of young men together with guitars
and drums you don't have to be Einstein to figure out how
the music will go. It was very intense and had a distinct
grunge feel. There weren't that many songs but they went over
each one several times and really focussed on every word.
It was as if they were determined to wring every last drop
of meaning out of the lyrics. I think on that score they succeeded.
The music lasted almost a full hour! David announced before
the music that if anyone felt led to share a word or a reading
they could do so. His offer was accepted by three different
individuals who variously read over and sang over us prophetically.
I was looking forward to the communion section, which involved
approaching the table at the front and tearing off some bread
and dipping it into the wine before consuming it. But alas,
we didn't make it that far.
Exactly how long was
46 minutes too long!
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
7 David is quite engaging as a speaker. He exudes passion
and conviction and I really liked everything he had to say.
There was a strong social-justice theme running right through
the message that I found entirely fitting. He took a fair
bit of time painting in the cultural and historical background
to the passage and he had clearly done his homework. But I
feel he needs to sharpen his message somewhat because it was
simply too long. A fair part of the message was repetition.
He had the annoying habit of opening and closing his Bible
a lot. Thankfully that was knocked on the head before too
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
His text was Luke 4:16 (Jesus reads from Isaiah in the temple
and announces that the scripture has been fulfilled). Jesus
is the new exodus. When Jesus read the scroll it was an OMG
moment (oh my goodness) that would change everything. The
passage Jesus read was originally the prophecy of a new exodus
for the community of faith who found themselves in exile.
Today we take part in this exodus through Jesus, moving from
a station of spiritual death to new life. It's not just for
Israel but for everyone.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
Their grungy but meditative version of "All Creatures
of our God and King" carried me off into another sphere
and I could have happily remained there for quite some time.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
David, impromptu, decided we should transition into a time
of ministering to one another right where we stood and "pray
shalom over" each other. I felt super awkward; as a visitor
I wasn't about to take the lead and the others at our table
seemed quite uneasy. One of them got up and walked away!
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
After two full hours with no
end in sight, I felt emotionally burnt out and decided it
was time to leave. I have no doubt, however, that they would
have shown us more great hospitality.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
The coffee was pre-service and a bit too milky for me. I didn't
ask if it was fair trade, but given the emphasis on social
justice in the sermon, I am quite sure there is nothing to
worry about there. There were lots of delicious looking buns
and tray bakes but these had to be paid for. The coffee, too,
was free only for visitors.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
6 It doesn't feel quite like church to me. Even so,
I would definitely come again, as I loved the music and appreciated
the message. For me, however, it would need to be shorter.
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The guitarist who looked like Edwin van der Sar.