Mystery Worshipper: Nengscoz
Church: Campus Church
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Date of visit: Sunday, 20 February 2011, 7:00pm
The congregation meets in a primary school hall. It is a modern building with a wall area available for the projector, which took up a large amount of the front wall.
Their meeting venue is next to the Canterbury University campus, and the church extends a special outreach to the university community but welcomes all comers. Their emphasis is on small groups that meet for instruction, Bible study and fellowship. They hold a service and meal at 7.00pm every Sunday.
The church is located in Ilam, a pleasant residential suburb of Christchurch about five kilometres west of city centre. Christchurch was formerly the centre of the country's clothing industry, but its major employers are now agriculture and tourism. Canterbury University is New Zealand's second largest. (Editor's note: Unfortunately the campus did suffer damage during the February quake, and as of publication date the University was closed until further notice.)
The two ministry apprentices, Chris Dutton and Agnetha Korevaar, addressed the congregation and led the readings. The sermon was given by pastor Nick Duke.
What was the name of the service?Sunday Night Meeting.
How full was the building?
Full! Extra chairs had to be brought out and some people were standing at the back. Approximately 200 people were in the hall. From the look of things there was a large number of first-time congregants, as university was due to start for the year the week after this service.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No welcome. A barbecue was being held prior to the service, so I had the awkward feeling of showing up halfway through a party where everyone had already found food and friends and were sitting in tight circles. I loitered around the food table, and eventually someone came up and said hello.
Was your pew comfortable?
We were sitting on rather narrow plastic chairs that were attached to each other in sets of three (therefore unmoveable). As the seats filled up, it became impossible to avoid making physical contact with one's seatmates.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The pre-service atmosphere came off cliquey because of the aforementioned barbecue situation. But eventually we were herded into the hall and squashed into our seats.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Hello and welcome to everyone, especially those who are new."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Two Bible versions were available on request if, like me, you hadn't thought to bring your own. These were either the New International Version or English Standard Version.
What musical instruments were played?
Electric guitar and some very loud drums.
Did anything distract you?
The constant vibrating of cell phones and people exiting to use the toilet.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was very relaxed but lacked the arm wavers to make it very happy clappy. The tone of the sermon also made it less happy and more doomsday-ish.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – Pastor Nick Duke was trying to interact with first year students at university. However, he picked an incredibly complex passage (Luke 9:51-62 – Jesus begins his final journey toward Jerusalem but is not welcomed along the way). He took his time getting to the point and kept peppering the sermon with preaching about Jesus' sacrifice for us. The jokes weren't too bad, though.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
To become a disciple of Jesus you need to follow the Bible to the letter, even if it means turning away from money, your upbringing, and your parents to do so.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Ummm ... the Bible reading?
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The awkward, left-out feeling at the start. Being crammed next to complete strangers in the service. Being made to feel about an inch high and completely lacking throughout the sermon. The drums were too loud – I couldn't hear myself singing, let alone anyone else, and I like singing.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
By that point the service had gone on longer than I had expected. It was nearly dark, and I was cycling. I had been rather uninspired by the people sitting near me when we had a chance to chat, and I chose not to stay. On the way out I picked up a pen with the church's name imprinted on it from a basket that had been set out by the door.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
A rather awesome hot chocolate was advertised frequently throughout the service. I'm lactose intolerant so would have been unable to sample this to confirm the advertising even if I had chosen to stay.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – To give the church the benefit of the doubt, many people looked as if this was their first time and that they were enjoying themselves. But I prefer churches that can inspire my worship by meeting in a glorious place. Finally, I was put off by the gloomy attitude of the sermon.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It made me glad that there is the recognition that being Christian is hard work with really high stakes.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
I got a free pen.