Mystery Worshipper: Ironted
Church: Whiteinch Church
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Date of visit: Sunday, 20 September 2009, 10:30am
They meet in the Whiteinch Community Centre, a facility open to all residents of the area of Glasgow's west end known as Whiteinch. Of the half dozen or so halls at the Centre, the church meets in a large multi purpose hall situated along the corridor and past the cafe.
Whiteinch Church is much more informal and charismatic than most Church of Scotland churches I have been to. The church is led by a team (with a primary leader) rather than a minister and believes in reaching out to people around Glasgow and telling them about Jesus in innovative ways like "free hugs" and using "healing rooms".
Whiteinch's name derives from an island ("inch" in the Scots language) that once sat in the River Clyde but disappeared when the river was dredged and widened. The district feels like any other area of Glasgow. The excellent Victoria Park, known for its fountains, ponds, gardens and sports pitches, is located in Whiteinch but is cut off from pedestrian access by the Victoria Expressway.
This is a given-name-only kind of place. Participating in the service were Alan; Helen, who led the prayers; Becky, who gave a notice; Iris, who gave a word from the Lord; and Scott and Jane, who co-led the music portion of the worship. A visitor from Egypt named Walid gave the sermon. The man who led the worship did not give his name, but he was a Jesus look-alike.
What was the name of the service?Sunday Service.
How full was the building?
The chairs were around three-quarters full, with around 60 people present. They represented a good mix of ages. There would have been space for more chairs at the back had they been necessary. As it was, the area at the back was used during the worship by people standing in a bit of space, waving flags and dancing.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Someone at the door welcomed us and directed us where to go. As we sat down, the woman next to me said hello. Whilst we were waiting for the service to commence, Alan came up to us with a friendly greeting and told us about the Sunday school and crèche facilities on offer. Another woman came to say hello when, during the service, we were told to say hello to someone sitting next to us (and to tell them our favourite vegetable).
Was your pew comfortable?
The chairs were comfortable cushioned community centre ones.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Many people seemed to be waiting outside at the front of the building; some were having coffee in the cafe and more were hanging around chatting at the back of the hall. Those sitting on chairs were either praying or chatting quietly. Overall I would say it was relaxed and expectant.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Whiteinch Church."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. Words for songs were projected by computer onto a screen, as were the notices. The speaker did not indicate which version of the Bible he was quoting from.
What musical instruments were played?
Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass and drums. I think I heard a flute or clarinet coming from somewhere behind me at one point, but I did not see it. The bass player was an elderly gent and the drummer a young boy, which was nice to see.
Did anything distract you?
In the front there was a slightly open door, with a sign reading "Storage cupboard". What could be in there? I wondered. The young drummer was often out of time with the other musicians, but he tried hard. Mrs Ironted was distracted by flags being waved in front of the screen during worship, but I didn't find them so.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Well, it was modern happy-clappy, I suppose, but there wasn't really a lot of clapping. The songs used were a mixture, mainly written within the last 10 years, but also including the hymn "How great thou art". The sung worship lasted for six songs, with someone bringing a word from God for a specific person halfway through.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Walid preached using a large number of biblical verses, both Old and New Testament, and repeated his points a number of times.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He spoke about himself and the missions he and his church have been involved with in different countries around the world. Then he shared prophecy for the church and the primary leader. Finally he spoke about the calling of God on our lives. Everyone has a calling from God, regardless of our background.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The congregation sang with gusto and the musicians worked well together. It was particularly inspiring hearing about Christians dying for their faith in Egypt and the legacy of Christianity over the years coming out of Scotland. Walid paid respect to those who have gone before us proclaiming Jesus. I think heaven will be like that.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I know heaven is meant to be a continuous worship and adoration of God, but I hope it is not like the final prayer, which was 13 minutes of sheer repetition. It was also a shame that no one came to speak to us after the service.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I sat still whilst Mrs Ironted went to pick up Little Irontedette from the crèche, where she had had a great deal of fun and even remembered some of the story the children were told. No one approached me. We stood at the back for an additional five minutes; again, no one approached.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no after-service coffee as such, but there was a community café where we bought a reasonably priced lunch. Some other members of the congregation who were doing likewise smiled at us, but that was the extent of it.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – If we lived more locally we would definitely consider it. Everyone had seemed friendly enough up until the end. The congregation seemed open to hearing from God as well as the leaders. The worship was also the style we prefer.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, especially the worship, the crèche, and the first five minutes of the talk.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Singing "How Great thou art" as in heaven.