The church meets in the Jubilee Centre, a utilitarian old mill building that has been well converted to create training/worship space. The space has an industrial feel to it, plain and unadorned, with lectern and musical instruments on a narrow raised platform backed by a large cross. Light bars and loudspeakers hang from the tiled ceiling.
The Light Church is part of Christians Against Poverty (CAP)'s presence in urban centre of Bradford. Their work in debt counselling is a response to loving their community compassionately.
Bradford, in West Yorkshire, is in the foothills of the Pennines, 8.6 miles (14 km) west of Leeds. An important textile manufacturing centre during the Industrial Revolution, the city is popular today with the tourist trade. The neighbourhood surrounding the Light Church is all industrial/commercial buildings (many still old mill buildings), but there is a 24 hour casino just nearby should things get boring at church! Bradford has the dubious distinction of being the birthplace of the School Dinner – the first state-funded meals were first served at a local school in 1906, and schoolchildren all over England have been enjoying rainbow sponge and lumpy custard ever since.
Some unknown beardy man wearing a t-shirt that proclaimed ‘My family is fresh’ opened and led the service, with a female church leader preaching. Worship was led by a competent and highly technically equipped six-piece worship group.
What was the name of the service?Don't know – there was no information given out in printed form, and the service wasn't announced as a particular type of service. It was, however, probably their normal worship service.
How full was the building?
Mostly full – I would say 120 people there maybe.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, a woman on the front row turned round and greeted us (we were boldly and slightly uncomfortably sat on the third row) – she turned out to be the preacher.
Was your pew comfortable?
They were individual chairs, comfortably upholstered. After nearly an hour of sitting on them (first 40 minutes standing for worship) I left with no great discomfort. There were sofas at the back, which seemed in high demand.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Lively – people getting tea and coffee from the back and being encouraged to bring it to their seats as they sat down. Lots of folk talking to each other, and a big timeclock counting down to let us all know how much longer we had to chatter – or maybe to prepare contemplatively for worship.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
‘Welcome to the Light Church. It's really good to see you here.’ Newcomers (I didn't own up to being one) were offered orange goody bags (contents unknown).
What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books – all projected. Competent and readable projection (although only one of two main screens was working).
What musical instruments were played?
They had a six piece worship band: keyboard, acoustic guitar for the male worship leader, electric guitar, bass guitar, drums (in a full cage), and a female vocalist. The music was great – well performed, well mixed and professionally done – all the musicians had in-ear monitoring.
Did anything distract you?
The worship leader would occasionally turn round and speak/shout into a microphone behind him (presumably to the sound engineer, since we heard nothing of this) – it left me wondering what instructions he was passing on each time it happened.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was contemporary in style, although in fact it used a number of traditional hymns and contemporary hymns alongside other contemporary songs. There was 40 minutes of worship, 10 minutes of prayer, 10 minutes of announcements, a 30 minute message. The few folk in front of us raised their hands (I didn't dare turn round to see what was happening behind). The worship leader and vocalist both had their eyes raised to the heavens in standard style for this type of worship – it was only after the service that I noticed they had a sneaky screen up there with the words on!
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 — The preacher spoke well, reminding us that Jesus was a northerner, with a northern accent, which went down well with the local Bradford crowd. She asked at one point whether getting married had been the best day of our lives ... there was one audible response, which I realised was her husband – not sure if he'd been put up to it, or whether it was genuine (I'm sure it was).
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Jesus was fully human, with all our human emotions and responses, including feeling spontaneous, joyful, vulnerable, edgy, etc. (Didn’t he overturn tables in the Temple, or something like that?) We are temples of the Holy Spirit – he can turn us over too! Ask Jesus for help if you need it. Jesus did not hesitate to ask for help that night in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The bassist had a great, funky, riff going in the first hymn (‘Be thou my vision’).
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
As I turned round after the service was over, I realised that there were more people in the technical box at the back of the church (sound and projection, etc.) than we sometimes have in our whole church. Made me rather sad about the disparity of resources.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There was a bake sale on, and I hung around a bit near the cake table (‘pay as you can’ – no rainbow sponge to be seen) and then near the front of the church. I wasn't assaulted by keen church members – everyone seemed very busy chatting and eating cake. But someone did eventually come and talk to me when I stood around in a less crowded part of the church.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea, coffee and juice were served both after and before the service. The coffee was good – from a pot, but decent – and there was no suggestion we should be paying for it.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 — It was encouraging to be worshipping with others who were genuine in their love for God and for each other.
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 fact that Jesus can turn us over like he overturned the tables in the Temple.