The church meets in a hotel next to the Greenwich train station. There were no signs outside the building, but if you walk into reception and look around, a banner clearly shows the church meeting in a small function room off to the right. It's neither the most swanky hotel in the world nor a run-down place with holes in the carpet. All natural light was kept out of the room, which was then illuminated in a quasi-disco manner.
They appear to be loosely affiliated with Assemblies of God, although they are an independent network of a few churches dotted around the country (Wellingborough, Newark and Swansea). The Greenwich venue of Everyday Champions is currently in a "soft launch" phase, with a full launch due in September. The affiliation of the various branches with each other is evidenced through the branding on the t-shirts, the flyers and the website. The style of the church seems modelled on the likes of Hillsong or Bethel, giving the impression of an ambition of being megachurch, but one that is currently in its infancy. I gathered that the church was in the process of starting dialogue with a few other local churches with the aim of cooperating in evangelism.
Greenwich is probably the jewel in south east London. Rich with history and architecture, at its heart lies the Royal park with the observatory in the centre and the magnificent buildings on the banks of the Thames that house the Old Royal Naval College and the National Maritime Museum, amongst others. Possibly its most famous claim to fame is the Greenwich Meridian, which marks the zero line of longitude for all navigation on the planet.
The service was begun by Leanne Morgan and the sermon was given by her husband, Gareth Morgan. They are both identified on their website as senior pastors.
What was the name of the service?The service didnt seem to have a particular name, but their website mentions something about "conversations."
How full was the building?
With about 25 people there, the smallish room was roughly half full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
As I came in a few people shook my hand. I had quite a lengthy chat with Gareth. There was a breakfast on offer, though as I'd already eaten I politely declined, picked a seat, and made myself comfortable.
Was your pew comfortable?
We had very comfortable hotel seats. Not so comfortable that one could curl up and sleep in them, but just right. They were arranged around tables, so the congregation was made up of three tables-worth of people. Apparently I'd sat at the youth table.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very chatty from what I could tell. The breakfast was served in a different room from where I was sat. Two chaps were trying to sort out the audio-visual system, with mixed levels of success. There was some panicked searching for a HDMI cable.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Morning. Everyone good? Just waiting for a few people to come in."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
There were some Bibles (New International Version) on the table. A variant reading from The Message was also given. There was a projector with some funky graphics on it, on which the only song we sung was projected.
What musical instruments were played?
A single acoustic guitar.
Did anything distract you?
There was a loose-looking tile above my head that kept me wondering if it was about to fall down. Several others looked like they were being held up by sticky tape.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was joyfully non-traditional. There was very little sung worship. The service opened with a short, excitable speech by Leanne and we were invited to discuss what Jesus/God meant to us. We wrote these down on pads of headed paper (in the name of the hotel) and were then asked to shout out our answers. The first few suggestions were main man, alpha and friend.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
48 minutes - which was the bulk of the service.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Gareth managed to be engaging for the best part of an hour, though the talk moved away from scripture fairly quickly into a talk on pop-psychology/self-help.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was loosely based on Matthew 16:5-12 (beware the "yeast of the Pharisees"). The problems that we think we see are not the problems we have, and therefore the solutions we come up with are not the solutions to the real problem. In the case of the passage in question, the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees was pride. Pride is "when I get in the way of God." We make excuses, but Jesus would never say "I can't," "I won't" or "I haven't," and if we have Jesus inside of us, then neither can we. In order to correct this, we need to be disciples. In the 21st century this is now known as coaching, where a coach is someone who gets you to do what you don't want to do in order that you can be the person you want to be.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Everyone I met was very friendly and engaged with what was going on. This was worship in which everyone was able to participate and contribute to; one could say it paralleled Quakerism in places, even though the worship style was vastly different.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
At the end of the service, Gareth asked someone to "bring in both books" and he ended with a sales pitch, asking people to buy these two books that he'd written. He made it clear that it was very important for anyone who was part of the church, as the contents of those books would be the focus of the church's teaching over the next few months. Something about the house of God being turned into a marketplace rang a bell with me, and I don't recall it being smiled upon.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I spotted that as soon as the service was over someone started counting the collection, so I made a hasty exit before the Mystery Worship card was found, thus avoiding some possibly awkward questions.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I didn't get a chance to sample it, but it looked very good. There was some fruit on offer, as well as leftover >em>pain au chocolat from breakfast.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – I got the impression that there was great sincerity here, but the reimaging of discipleship as a form of life coaching is a bit too heterodox for my taste.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The notion of discipleship as life coaching, followed by wondering what Dietrich Bonhoeffer might make of that.