Mystery Worshipper: Old Baldhead
Church: Village Church (South)
Location: Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
Date of visit: Sunday, 22 November 2015, 8:00am
The Village Church (South) services are held in Bell Performing Arts Centre, located on the campus of Sullivan Heights Secondary School. From the outside it's a stark grey cubist concrete structure, but on the inside it's a modern, comfortable, fully equipped theatre. It doesn't look very large at first, but once you're inside and have turned the corner, you realize that it is.
I don't think there's any appreciable difference between the programs offered at the church's two locations, so I'll refer you to the previous report on Village Church (North) and their website for what they're all about. This location did, however, seem to be predominantly a young people's church young adults and young families.
The Sullivan Heights neighbourhood is pretty much in the exact geographical middle of Surrey. Like Fraser Heights, where Village Church (North) is located, it's an upper-class district of townhouses and single family dwellings on the south side of 64th Avenue.
Lead Pastor Mark Clark, Pastor Josh Kruse, Worship Arts Intern Shylo Sharity. Also an unnamed "baby dedication guy."
What was the name of the service?Again, no name, but their website calls them Sunday Gatherings.
How full was the building?
Not very. It is a large auditorium, and people were sitting all over and up in the balcony, but easily less than 35 per cent full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Not beyond a "Good morning" from the middle of the three greeters and an almost absent-minded "Welcome" from one of the side greeters. There were no handshakes.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, very! It was cushy auditorium seating, so I never even thought about it once.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Relaxedly expectant. There was music playing of a genre I couldn't define, and people wandered in and found seats. A lot of people came in with their morning coffee. There didn't seem to be much chatter, but it was hard to tell because of the sound-muffling auditorium and the playing music. The people who were there seemed to be waiting patiently for the service to start.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
From the worship leader: "Good morning, church." From the pastor: "Alright, let's give them a hand. Baby dedication is awesome." (Missed the opening words of the baby dedication.)
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Just the Bible I think he was using the English Standard Version. Most of the relevant texts were projected up on the screen.
What musical instruments were played?
Two keyboards, electric guitar, bass, drums, plus four vocalists at the front of the stage.
Did anything distract you?
The "God font" of the song lyrics, where the personal pronoun "i" is lowercase. I get that it's shifting the importance from I to God, but since that's not how the English language works, it's distracting. Especially when I found one capital I! I squinted at it, to make sure it wasn't a dot and a line blurred together, but it was definitely a solid line.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I need to find a good phrase to describe this worship style. For now I will describe it as very typically modern. A little flashy with changing lights (both the background light and the audience-aimed spotlights), but not annoyingly flashy. That familiar "We just want to welcome you, church, to come and worship our Lord and Saviour" attitude among the worship leaders. A positive and simple invitation. Short sentences. Worship leaders sometimes jumping up and down, the almost wince-like facial expressions when eyes are closed in worship. They sang two songs at the beginning, one of which I knew, and a hymn at the end (which I loved) when they took the offering.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – I was not bored once! Lead Pastor Mark Clark is a good public speaker. He can hold an audience, is clearly passionate about what he's speaking on, and delivers the Word of God. Preach it, brother!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Matthew 7:13-14, the wide and narrow gate. He spoke well on this passage that is at odds with the way the world thinks (i.e., that all faiths/religions/belief systems are true for the people who believe them, and that all roads lead to Rome, so to speak). There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus (John 14:6). He spoke of what narrowness means to the world and to Christians. Memorable quote: "If there is one thing we as Canadians don't like, its narrowness." There's a danger to Christians being too narrow in that it can turn us into Pharisees, but there is also goodness in narrowness because it hones us. The example he used was of a brain surgeon, who has a very narrow focus of study to become very good. Narrowness leads to fullness.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sermon. The real Word of God was preached in a challenging, encouraging, meaningful and not-boring way. I quite enjoyed it and could have kept listening.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The trendiness. I was there with some friends and we discussed this afterwards. The people at this church (or at least this service, but I feel safe in making an assumption on the whole church) are trendy. Lots of young adults, young families, wearing tights or stylish jeans, boots or chucks or flats, well-cut and clean jackets or sweaters, scarves or knitted accessories, styled hair, earrings, a lot with coffee/tea and/or phone in hand. It is a well-dressed, upper-class, white church. That is how the church presents itself, and it is hard not to judge based on apparel. Not really my cup of tea (or reusable mug of Starbucks).
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I left my friends and stood in an open space in the lobby, sometimes sipping my tea, sometimes looking about. Then I moved a few feet to my left. Took some more sips of tea and looked around (tea is a wonderful accessory). Then I took a few steps forward and glanced at the welcome desk. Then I moved several metres to the side and leaned on a tall shelf thing. I deliberately people-watched. I continued to move around the room, pausing often to wait, sip tea, and look about. But nobody talked to me or made eye contact with me. That is basically what I expected would happen, given the size and organization of the church (well, I didnt expect the no eye contact thing). I did talk to one of the parking lot attendants as I was leaving, though. A nice conversation, but brief.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I opted for tea. One of the servers handed me a cup of hot water and pointed out a basket of tea bags. I picked one up, hoping it wasnt Orange Pekoe but assuming it was (and it was).
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – 10 for enjoying the service, but a 0 for lack of friendliness. I think this is a church where it would be difficult to fit in/get involved. I give them a 6 instead of a 5 because I added an extra point for being able to discuss the service afterwards with my friends.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes! Particularly the sermon (I really felt the Word of God was preached, and in a way that felt applicable to me) and the after-service discussion with friends.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Three things: The benefits of narrowness, the trendiness of Village Church, and discussing church with friends.