|11: Bon Accord Free Church, Aberdeen|
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Mystery Worshipper: Bookworm.
The church: Bon Accord Free Church, Aberdeen.
Denomination: Free Church of Scotland.
The building: A Victorian dressed granite building with a square spire and bell tower, sandwiched between the West End shops and modern flats.
The neighbourhood: The church is in the Rosemount district of Aberdeen, which represents the late Victorian trend of slum clearance. Granite tenements were built over the Denburn, Aberdeen's original water supply, which is now an underground stream.
The cast: Rev. Iver Martin.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
One-third full, mostly students and thirtysomethings.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Three doorkeepers said hello, and one asked if I had a Bible. Inside, I met a friend from University, which was a shock, but it made me relax a bit more.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. There were long cushions on all the pews.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Reverential silence, with the occasional quiet conversation and rustle of jackets and coats being taken off.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
'Let us praise God together by singing Psalm 122.'
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Scottish Psalmody (1650), and the New International Version of the Bible.
What musical instruments were played?
None! It was acapella singing (dead scary if you can't sing).
Did anything distract you?
Only a young girl sitting next to me who fidgetted and made paper puzzles.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very traditional Free Church: early in the service we had a long, intercessory prayer (which we had to stand for), and the Psalms were sung unaccompanied by the congregation, led by a precentor. To the uninitiated, this is very different from the worship in the main Church of Scotland.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
39 minutes every one of importance!
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8. It was expository, but not academic; enthusiastic, but in a sensible Scots Presbyterian manner.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Jesus came into the world in order to save everyone, but not everyone will accept him.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Angelic, hamonious singing without the distraction of a synthesized disco beat.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
None it was all too decent for any Devil to abide!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't have time to look lost, because I was immediately in conversation with my friend. But everyone was smiley and welcoming. It's very handy when you know someone they know.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I never found out but I'm sure it would be a good Scots urn of tea.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7. They genuinely seemed friendly and not at all cliquey. The minister made a point of speaking to me before I left, and that helped even more.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes! They cheerfully exploded the myth of the dour Scots Presbyterian.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The lovely Psalm singing.