|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.
Baptist, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Baptist, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
of Baptist Churches in Ireland.
The building is set just below pavement level, so from the road
you see a sunken bit of wall topped by a massive roof. It's
not that big overall, and every inch of space inside is carefully
employed. In the sanctuary itself, both the ceiling and walls
are characterised by lots of angles and recesses, the purpose
of which is not altogether clear. The decor is minimal and the
stage is very low and cluttered with instruments.
Today witnessed the introduction of a potential new pastor who
was there to preach with a view to being officially called.
There is a noticeable trend within Northern Ireland's Baptist
assemblies to go without full-time pastors for protracted periods
of time, and there are presently around 50 congregations with
no one at the helm. To their credit, SBC appear keen to avoid
the temptation to save money by relying on pulpit supply. They
sponsor a large variety of activities for folks of all ages,
all listed in detail on their website.
The church is situated along the Belmont Road area of East Belfast,
which is a fairly affluent neighbourhood and part of the Bible
Belt, there being literally dozens of churches in the immediate
area. There are two very posh schools on the road and a nice
parkland area too. The further one drives along the road heading
out of town, the bigger and more wealthy the housing becomes.
The service was led by two men named Eddie and Nigel. The preaching
was done by the Revd Lee Campbell, who has applied to be their
The date & time:
Sunday, 20 November 2011, 10.45am.
What was the name of the service?
Sunday Morning Service.
How full was the building?
It was packed. There was an overflow area that was opened shortly
before the start, and this rapidly filled up also. Well over
200 people, I would guess.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. I was greeted at the door by a woman named Ruth (she had
a name badge). Before the start, another four people took the
time to say hello, three of whom introduced themselves and made
polite small talk.
Was your pew comfortable?
The chairs are stylish blue plastic with metal-tube frames.
They had a thin cushion and were quite flexible. Very comfy
indeed. But they were also joined together and it felt a bit
How would you describe the pre-service
Very loud. When I entered, there were groups of people standing
around chatting. By the start the noise was almost deafening,
as the building was full and everyone seemed to be in full-flow.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning. Hello." Then a long introduction to
the first song, which was barely audible over the sound of many
people still talking!
What books did the congregation use during the
What musical instruments were played?
Electric piano, electric and acoustic guitars, a cello, and
Did anything distract you?
The PowerPoint slides containing the lyrics had moving backgrounds
that appeared to be linked to the theme of the music. I like
the idea of this, but for me it did not help to focus on the
message of the song. Also, I noticed a chair tucked under the
eucharistic table and wondered if the bread and, erm, juice
would be served up family-style. (The man named Eddie did sit
down, but only to wait until the servers returned with the leftovers.)
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
It was contemporary music and played very well indeed. Most
of the songs left me cold, however. I barely knew any of them,
and some of the pieces I found incredibly difficult to sing
at all. The eucharist was celebrated near the beginning of the
service. I found this encouraging, as most Baptist churches
in Northern Ireland usually tag it on to the end of worship
as something of an optional extra most opting to leave
at this point.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 The new minister was clearly quite nervous, as there
was quite a lot riding on this sermon and it wouldn't be fair
to be overly critical. But the reading was awkward and disjointed,
with emphasis in all the wrong places. Also, his facial expressions
didn't always match the words he was saying. However, he is
clearly quite sincere and seems very personable.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
His text was Matthew 5:1-16 (the Sermon on the Mount). What
are the marks of a disciple? Today, as always, there is a temptation
for the Christian simply to blend in with the surrounding culture.
But Jesus calls us to stand out and be different. He needs "salty
Christians" who will be distinct from the world so that they
may usefully serve the world. Jesus does not call us to leave
the world either, but to be distinct in the world for the purpose
of allowing the light of his gospel to shine clearly and be
seen and known.
Which part of the service was like being in
For me the eucharist is one of the key rituals that Christians
can perform together, as it is so full of mystery and meaning.
However, I was disappointed that we were ministered individual
portions rather than sharing a common cup. The juice itself
was heavily diluted and gross!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nigel, the worship leader, quite impressed me at the beginning
of the service, but he started to get on my nerves after a while.
He led well and is clearly a gifted musician, but he had the
annoying habit of giving fairly long introductions to every
single musical item. By the end I was ready to scream!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I stationed myself bravely right in an open space in the middle
of the hall. I had to wait only for a short time before I was
picked up and engaged in several minutes of friendly banter,
which was not in the least unpleasant.
How would you describe the after-service
The coffee was quite good, fairly-traded, and they allowed me
to add my own milk (some places have it already in the cup).
Also, the biscuits weren't what you'd bring out if the vicar
came for a visit, but they weren't the cheapest of the bunch
either. So overall not a bad experience. Just a few extra pounds
in the budget and this could be great!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 I felt very welcome here. The people seem naturally
friendly and there is a real buzz about the place. It is a hive
of activity and they are very involved in the neighbourhood.
I can definitely think of worse places to end up!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Eddie sitting down at the table while the servers ministered
|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.