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2394: Brighton Road Baptist, Horsham, England
Brighton Road Baptist, Horsham (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Old Man from Scene 24.
The church: Brighton Road Baptist, Horsham, England.
Denomination: Baptist Union of Great Britain.
The building: Very modern, having replaced the previous Gothic styled 1920s building. Indoors it's a two tier affair, with younger members observing the grey haired from above.
The church: This is the largest Baptist congregation in the town, which is host to a number of smaller (and stricter!) Baptist churches. They sponsor a caring scheme that provides meals, transport, babysitting, shopping, gardening, visiting, etc. to anyone needing them in the short term due to emergencies. They also have a team of church visitors and pastoral workers. They sponsor Soundwaves Radio, which supplies a variety of religious programming to radio stations around the world.
The neighbourhood: Brighton Road is near the centre of Horsham and, unsurprisingly, leads to Brighton. The stretch where the church is located features some commercial establishments as well as residential side streets.
The cast: The service was led by Robert Rierson, who was not further identified. The Revd Dr Tim Carter, senior minister, preached.
The date & time: Father's Day, 17 June 2012, 10.30am.
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.

What was the name of the service?
Morning Communion Service.

How full was the building?
Mostly full, say 70 per cent.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was welcomed with a smile, a handshake, and a "Good morning" from a greeter who handed my a service bulletin and a letter from God entitled "Father's Love Letter – an intimate message from God to you."

Was your pew comfortable?
No pews, as everyone had padded and comfortable chairs to sit on.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I arrived just as things were starting to get moving. Notices were being read out, with everyone listening in silence.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Morning."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Although two books were available, Songs of Fellowship and Baptist Praise and Worship 1991, all songs were displayed on two large screens at the front of the church.

What musical instruments were played?
I could see an electric piano, violin, guitar, flute, oboe and drums. In addition, I think I heard a trumpet but couldn't tell from where I was sitting.

Did anything distract you?
The most distracting part of the service was Mr Rierson, who would wave his hands about to conduct the music. It felt a bit off putting and patronising. It was if he were attempting to control how we worshipped, rather than let us get on with it ourselves. It was also striking how he conducted the service with such coldness and formality. I felt completely detached from him personally.

Brighton Road Baptist, Horsham (Communion)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The musicians did their best, but aside from the last hymn ("Jesus my Redeemer"), all the songs were so miserable and depressing in tone that I simply gave up after the second one. Mr Rierson's cold instructions of when to sit, stand, or sing another verse created an atmosphere that was so tightly controlled and regimented that it squeezed the life out of it completely. It felt more of a chore than a chance to connect with Almighty God and praise his name. At one point I carefully looked around at the congregation and couldn't see a single soul who was either smiling or looking remotely like they were enjoying themselves. When we shared the peace, we all parroted something about "the peace of God" in unison, with no opportunity to greet anyone personally or shake hands. Communion was pew-style, with bits of bread and wee cuppies of grape juice given out for all to hold onto until instructed to down them in unison. There was no pause for reflection or opportunity to appreciate the magnitude of the eucharist.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
2 – The Revd Mr Carter's delivery was fairly flat, although his body language and tone made it appear as though he wanted to talk with us rather than at us.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was a rather forgettable sermon, and I'm afraid I've already forgotten it! Something about Acts with fatherhood crow-barred in. At one point the preacher mentioned something about the apostles and baptism in the Holy Spirit, adding "not really Brighton Road." Which was a massive understatement.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The after-service atmosphere was such a contrast to the service itself. Very busy, with everyone seemingly enjoying the warm company of each other. I was made to feel very welcome by several members who fussed over me and attempted to get me to attend their barbecue next week.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The hour-and-a-half service was probably the most isolated experience from God or my Christian brethren that I have had in a long time. The worship was miserable, and the "not really Brighton Road" remark about the Holy Spirit pretty much shut the door on connecting with God. The whole service felt like the church management was conducting a service around us – that interaction between ourselves and God or our fellow believers was discouraged. It was a performance from the front, rather than something we could participate in ourselves.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was ushered into the coffee area, where I had a pleasant chat with a few members.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was OK – nothing special.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 – The members were very pleasant and welcoming, but the service left me with the sense of being isolated, miserable and cold.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely not. The service was a perfect example of how to suck out the life and joy of being a Christian.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The miserable worship and the cold detachment Mr Rierson had from anyone else during the service.
 
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