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2501: Gateway Vineyard, Norwich, Norfolk, England
Gateway Vineyard, Norwich
Mystery Worshipper: St Hilda.
The church: Gateway Vineyard, Norwich, Norfolk, England.
Denomination: Vineyard Churches UK and Ireland.
The building: The building appears to be a former gospel hall or similar church building. It is a long brick building, with rounded windows and a small spire and entrance portico at one end. The interior is brightly coloured (green ceiling, yellow and red walls, orange and burgundy carpet), with rows of chairs set out facing a stage at one end.
The church: The church was planted from Norwich Vineyard in 2005, and has been in the current building since 2009. The church aims to be welcoming to anyone who comes along. They seem particularly family friendly, with children's groups and a parent and toddlers' group, and they are involved in a number of ministries to serve the local community.
The neighbourhood: The church is situated in one of the less affluent suburbs of Norwich. The area is not particularly distinguished; however there is a hostelry, The Fat Cat, close by that is renowned for its wide choice in alcoholic beverages. Norwich is a reasonably prosperous city, with a long history and a large student population.
The cast: The pastor is Craig Deal, and his wife Hannah was the preacher.
The date & time: 10 March 2013, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Sunday Mornings.

How full was the building?
There were around 70 worshippers present, over a wide age range, from babies upwards, filling most of the chairs that were put out, and approximately half filling the available space.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were welcomed on the door by a very friendly chap whose name I didn't catch. Several other people on the welcoming team greeted us as we walked in. I also spoke briefly to the woman next to me during a break in the service.

Was your pew comfortable?
I was seated on a red padded chair that was quite comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Everyone was standing around chatting, or drinking tea or coffee, and eating (worshippers are welcomed to share breakfast of danish pastries, croissants, etc. before the service begins).

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books. The words of the songs were projected on the overhead screen, and I did not see anyone except myself consult a Bible.

What musical instruments were played?
Keyboards, electric guitars, drums.

Did anything distract you?
There were lots of delightful small children playing toward the front of church. One little boy spent most of the worship time eating danish pastries, leaving a circle of crumbs where he had sat, and making me grateful that I did not have to wield the church hoover after the service.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship style was lively, with modern rock style worship songs. There was no liturgy. The service consisted of 25 minutes of worship, followed by a talk and then a ministry time.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
27 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Rather conversational, so it was a shock to realise the sermon had actually started. Also the preacher spoke from a seated position, which I found slightly unusual.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Christianity is not just about finding God, but it is also about becoming the body of people God wants us to be. The preacher spoke about different New Testament concepts of what a church should be, for example the Body of Christ. She emphasised the need for worshippers to live in harmony with other church members, and to join in with church activities, particularly small groups.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The worship time was wonderful. One felt a real sense of God's presence.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The weather in Norfolk was unseasonably cold, so the worse thing was the freezing cold journey (all of two minutes) from car to church.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I stood around with my companion for several minutes trying to look lost, but everyone ignored us. Eventually we gave up, and headed toward the coffee and croissants. We were briefly wished good-bye by our original welcomer as we departed.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was help yourself service, coffee or a choice of teas, with cardboard cups to dispense your beverage of choice into, and all appeared to be fairly traded. There was a great selection of food items available, including fruit, cereal bars and croissants.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – While I didn't feel there was much spiritual food on offer from the sermon, there was a real authenticity about the worship and ministry which I appreciated.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It made me feel very glad. A truly inclusive atmosphere came across, particularly towards the many small children.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The vibrant colour scheme of the interior.
 
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