Mystery Worshipper: Orient Bird
Church: Cornwall Street Baptist
Location: Grangetown, Cardiff, Wales
Date of visit: Sunday, 4 September 2011, 6:00pm
Small and set off the immediate roadside. It has a lovely grass area outside the building and a path to get up the door. The building itself is sort of house shaped in design and almost homely, not at all threatening or austere. The sanctuary is very plain, with a few plaques dedicated to past members and a large one right at the front in the middle of the wall with a quote from Romans on it. No stained glass that I noticed. No statues, pictures, banners or icons.
They are in a struggling area and they are doing bus runs to pick up children from a neighbouring area that faces similar social difficulties to bring them into the church. I thought this was an impressive approach. They also have junior church during the evening service.
Grangetown faces some social difficulties, although by all counts anti-social behaviour and crime are at a three year low. That is great to hear. Grangetown is very multi-cultural in flavour but the congregation were not very mixed.
The Revd Rick Owens, co-pastor. Richie Orrick, a member of the ministry team, led the children's time.
What was the name of the service?Evening Worship.
How full was the building?
There were 19 adults that I counted and then 22 or so children. We filled about half the sanctuary until the children left, whereupon we looked a bit straggly!
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was so impressed by the welcome I got here. Having got drenched on the way up to the church, I began to wipe my glasses pretty much as I had one foot inside the door. As I was doing that, a lady who I later discovered was Jaime Owens, the pastor's wife, welcomed me and asked my name. She then introduced me to her husband, who also gave me a very warm welcome. After I had sat myself down and been settled a few minutes, Jaime came back and made sure I was OK, and we talked a little bit about their family (two gorgeous blond boys and an impossibly cute baby girl). After she had left to go and see to the children, Pastor Rick came back to have a chat and gave me a pen to fill in a visitor's card. He said I could keep the pen. They were so warm and enthusiastic that although I felt a little out of place at being a newcomer, it didn't last long. A lady sat a couple of seats away from me and asked if I minded. We had a couple of minutes for small talk and an introduction to another lady just before the service began.
Was your pew comfortable?
No pews, just some cushioned seats. They were comfortable enough but you wouldn't want to sit on them for hours at a time!
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Overwhelmingly noisy. The 22 or so children were running fairly riot, with a couple of adults trying to get them to sit down. The rest of the adults were either having conversations or were just sitting.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to our service this evening."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
There were no books. All hymn words were put on the screens at the front of the sanctuary. I was offered a pew Bible but I didn't take it because I prefer to listen.
What musical instruments were played?
There was a lady playing an electric piano. For other songs we had some pre-recorded music to sing along with.
Did anything distract you?
The noise. I like a nice quiet sanctuary so I can focus on the reason I am there and process what is going on. I know that doesn't appeal to everyone but that's what I like. Although the children left a bit into the service, the room they were in was right next door and the walls were thin! You can't disguise 22 children having a laugh! Also there was some sort of disturbance outside the church, possibly some drunk people, during the sermon. This made me feel uncomfortable, but that's life, and it's happened at my own church before.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was a bit difficult to describe, really. The first couple of hymns were well known classics but set to tunes I didn't know, with praise song bridges in between some of the verses. The rest of the hymns were what I would call traditional. One of them was the ever brilliant "Love Divine" set to Blaenwern, which is one of my top five favourite hymns and tunes. Not much clapping other than the obligatory bits. The children's talk was somewhat bizarre. Richie Orrick read a passage from Exodus that began with Joseph's death a rather obscure passage for children, I thought. Then the children were quizzed on it. Each child who answered a question correctly could come up to the front and take some sweets from a jar. It seemed interminable to me. Also there was no wrap-up, no consolidation of what the children were supposed to have learnt.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Somewhat epic at 35 minutes, and I just don't have the stamina, baby! Overall, content was interesting but not overly challenging. Delivery was solid, but I did feel that some of the illustrations were superfluous.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The title of the sermon was "What the Bible says about evangelism." Our job is not just to spread the Word, but to make sure that people are supported once they have heard it and have been brought into fellowship.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The lovely welcome I got. And during the children's bit, when Richie Orrick was quizzing the children, I heard a tiny voice behind me murmur, "Pick me, Daddy." I thought it was so cute, I could have cried.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The noise. Honestly, I know I harp on about it, but all I want is a quiet life!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't have to. Immediately after the service, the lady near me invited me for a cup of tea. I cannot articulate how overwhelmed I was by this obviously shy lady going out of her way to strike up a conversation with me, seriously not just talking but walking the walk. I don't think I have ever had such a genuinely warm and heartfelt welcome in any church. That says a lot.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I didn't stay because it was getting late and I had to be up early in the morning. I was invited to go to coffee hour on Monday afternoon, though, and I may well do.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – I am very happy in my regular church so I am not looking to change. But if I were looking for a new church, the likelihood of me choosing this one is low simply because of all the children. It's a very family orientated church and I am on my own, so it would be difficult for me, I think. In any case, I prefer a more traditional approach. For people in the locale with young families, I don't think you could find a better place to be. They are really trying hard with local ministry, too, which would make it an interesting place to be. If I had children, I would most definitely consider relocating.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yeah, kind of. I didn't leave the service floating on air, but I wasn't gnashing my teeth either.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
"'Pick me, Daddy."