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5: Purley Baptist, Surrey
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Purley Baptist, Surrey
Mystery Worshipper: Two Sheds.
The church: Purley Baptist, Surrey.
Denomination: Baptist.
The building: The modern, rectangular entrance frustratingly hides an older, more traditional-looking building behind it.
The neighbourhood: The library next door has a plaque commemorating 'Southern England's first public railway, July 1805.'
The cast: John Earwicker (the church currently has no minister).
What was the name of the service?
Evening worship.

How full was the building?
Mostly full. The five back rows were roped off to make people sit nearer the front.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. I had a handshake at the door when I was given my hymnbook, and the lady who sat one chair away from me said 'hello'.

Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfortable. I sat on a modern, red upholstered chair, with generous cushioning for your bum and a rest for your back.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Warm. Some people chatted quietly, others sat in silence, while live background music played.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
'The Lord has chosen Zion...'

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Bible, 'Songs of Fellowship', the Baptist Hymn Book.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano, two guitars, one flute.

Did anything distract you?
A few people coughing after taking the non-alcoholic grape juice for communion. I could have understood if it had been good quality red wine!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
There was no hand-clapping, but we had the style of music which encourages people to 'change the lightbulb', as I once heard a preacher describe it (outstretched arms with a half-open hand)...

Exactly how long was the sermon?
33 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7. His sermon had good visual aids, involved the congregation (by getting us to work in groups), and the preacher kept checking to see if we were still awake.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
What does being a good disciple of Jesus involve?

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Sitting near a hot radiator. Looking at the beautiful tapestry of a mother and child at the front of the church. The flower arrangements. Early summer light coming through the plain glass windows.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Sitting too near a hot radiator.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't need to. The woman nearest me started talking as soon as the service ended.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There's no coffee or other drinks after the 6.30pm service.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8. This is a lively, friendly church with a good atmosphere. I was impressed by how well things were running without an obvious leader or pastor up front.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
What it feels like to be a stranger in a church. It made me think more positively about talking to strangers in my own church.
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