Mystery Worshipper: Musical1
Church: Northeast Church of Christ
Location: Eastpointe, Michigan, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 3 January 2010, 10:30am
A brown brick building with a glass entryway. The sanctuary has painted cinder block walls and no windows. A plexiglas pulpit stands in front of the wooden altar.
The church has its own senior citizens/nursing home known as the Church of Christ Care Center. They sponsor missions in eastern Europe, India, Nigeria and South Africa. They offer one-on-one Bible study and an annual winter youth camp. There are morning and evening worship services each Sunday, along with Bible school and a home Bible group. Bible study is also offered Wednesday evenings.
Eastpointe was formerly called East Detroit; the residents voted in 1992 to change the city's name in order to disassociate it from Detroit and, by means of the ultimate "e", to link it instead to the well-to-do neighborhoods comprising the district known as Grosse Pointe. Despite all that, the city is decidedly a working-class bedroom community. The church is located in a commercial zone on Nine Mile Road, so called in accordance with a surprisingly complex scheme that names streets for their approximate distance north of the junction of Woodward and Michigan Avenues in downtown Detroit.
The opening prayer was led by Dean Hampton. The song leader was David Walker. Stan Clanton, preaching minister, presided. There were also four communion servants: Mark Orr, Joe Mannella, Scott Smith and Mike Serilla.
What was the name of the service?Sunday Morning Worship.
How full was the building?
Though they could have accommodated about 25 more people, the sanctuary was pretty full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, an usher said good morning as he handed me the Northeast News (the church bulletin). A lady two rows up greeted me as I entered my pew. The minister also introduced himself to me before the service.
Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfortable wooden pew with a cushion.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. It's time to begin our service."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Several versions of the Bible and Songs of Faith and Praise hymnal. Most of the words were posted on the overhead projector with the hymn numbers also.
What musical instruments were played?
No musical instruments at all are used in the Churches of Christ.
Did anything distract you?
The song leader made figure-8 motions with his arm while singing. Children running (not walking) across the sanctuary on their way to church school was also a distraction.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
While not formal, it was typical Church of Christ in trying to avoid any embellishments: no hand raising, no clapping, and virtually no expression. In addition to the communion servants serving the front rows, ushers came from the back to serve communion and pass the collection plates.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – The preacher had images on the overhead relating to what he was talking about in the sermon.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The preacher talked about the sacred versus the secular, taking as his text Colossians 3:17-4:1 (do all for God – with special advice for wives, husbands, children, slaves and masters). No part of the Christian life, whether on the job or in school or retirement, should be devoid of God, and therefore there is nothing secular for the Christian. Worship can be secular only if there is no God connection.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There were no words of institution at communion. The Churches of Christ do not hold to the doctrine of transubstantiation; rather, they teach that the bread is a representation of Christ's body.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The lady directly in front of me just looked at me, but other people introduced themselves and told me to come back.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – No instruments equated to very slow singing, and while one could hear the melody and the bass line, alto and tenor were absent. Very nice, friendly people at this church, though. Preaching was spectacular.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
No words of institution at communion and slow singing.