Mystery Worshipper: Church Hopper
Church: Mona Baptist
Location: Kingston, Jamaica
Date of visit: Sunday, 18 December 2011, 10:30am
The church is designed in a circular shape. The benches are shaped in a circular pattern so that everyone is seated around the altar, as it were.
The church is located near the two major universities in Kingston and was originally designed in part to minister to the students. It offers a Bible study, women's federation, youth fellowship and some lifelong learning classes. The church belongs to the Jamaica Baptist Union.
Kingston is the capital of Jamaica, and the area where the church is located is a mix of shops, commercial buildings and houses, as well as the two universities. It is off a very busy road and near a bus stop.
The service was led by Deacon Carol Lowe-Chin, and the Revd Peter Harding gave the message. He was filling in for the resident pastor, the Revd Dr Stephen Jennings.
What was the name of the service?Morning Worship.
How full was the building?
It was half full – about 100 people. It looked like the church could hold 200.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, someone greeted us and handed us a bulletin.
Was your pew comfortable?
Alas, no. It was a hard wooden bench with no padding, which started to hurt the butt about an hour in (and we still had an hour to go). While the benches looked attractive, they were even less comfortable than straight wooden benches.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I was a little late, so singing had already commenced by the time I got there.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymns and choruses were projected on an overhead. The Bible translation used was the New International Version. However, people brought their own Bibles so there were probably many translations.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard and drums. No Christmas hymns on the agenda, which surprised me, seeing as Christmas was just two weeks away.
Did anything distract you?
Apart from the tough bench? As I said before, the church is very close to the main road and, in true Caribbean style, doors and windows were wide open (for air) so you hear the traffic noise. But the standout was a truck rumbling down the road with very loud speakers urging everyone to "Vote for the Jamaica Labor Party" (an election was coming up in a few days).
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
On the happy-clappy side. Hand clapping during the singing, which I appreciated. When the prayer was given, the speaker got very emotional, and the congregation started shouting and praising. The preacher was more subdued and things quieted down afterwards.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – He was a straightforward speaker who held your interest. He did mention that Christmas begins on 25 December, a concept foreign to those folks who think that is when Christmas ends.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
"With God, nothing is impossible" (Luke 1:37). He connected the Occupy movement with Advent and the upcoming election. We need to capture the spirit of Advent, as it is deliverance from the evil of the world. Luke's gospel is full of weak people who encountered the power structure, and their fortunes were reversed through Jesus.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
There wasn't a choir that day so the congregation did the singing. It was wonderful. Back home, you get so used to being "entertained" – either the choir or the rock band is miked so loud the congregational singing does not matter. Here it did, and we rose to the challenge. We sang "What a mighty God we serve", among other songs, loudly and enthusiastically.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Have I already mentioned the bench?
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People came up and shook hands to welcome me to the service. I was greeted very warmly.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Mention was made from the pulpit that refreshments were available for visitors, but I stopped to talk to so many people that I forgot to visit the reception area.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – I thought the speaker was very good and people were welcoming. However, I could see that depending on who was speaking, the church could get very emotional and into shouting and crying – a bit too much for me.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, very. I love to see how God is worshipped all over the world.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Uh, the bench?