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37: Capel Nebo, Cwmdâr, Wales
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Capel Nebo, Cwmdar
Mystery Worshipper: Griff Pilchard.
The church: Capel Nebo, Cwmdâr, Wales.
Denomination: Baptist.
The building: Nonconformist box.
The neighbourhood: Cwmdâr is a run-down former pit village in the Welsh valleys, with a very steep high street.
The cast: Rev. Cecil H. Jenkins.
What was the name of the service?
Ordination service (a college friend).

How full was the building?
The ground floor was full and the balcony three-quarters full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was offered a friendly 'hello' and someone asked me if I needed to use the simultaneous translation service, the service being in Welsh.

Was your pew comfortable?
In a 19th-century, non-conformist, hard-bit-of-wood sort of way.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Lots of chatter – like the hubub before a wedding.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
'Annwyl gyfeillion maen anser im ddechrau'r gwasonaeth pwysig hwn' ('Dear friends, it's time to begin this important service').

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Specially printed service sheet.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
The fact that despite the microphones, one of the people who spoke was almost inaudible. This was very irritating, because he was announcing where the after-service refreshments were to be found.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Vigorous, shouty Welsh hymn-singing, with deep male voices and women verging on the raucous.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
27 minutes. The preacher had been given 25 minutes maximum.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – a very good version of a conservative evangelical preacher. He was enthusiastic, committed and almost totally unhelpful for spiritual growth.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The importance of preaching the gospel – well, the conservative evangelical version of it, anyway...

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The genuine commitment of the ordinand and the church members to work their backsides off for God in a very deprived part of the country.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The general impression that this way of 'doing church' was a revival of the 1950s version of the 19th-century golden age. It doesn't seem to be particularly relevant today, and makes you realize why people leave the church.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I met up with people I knew at college.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Very good Welsh chapel tea (hot and milky), with sandwiches and cakes.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
0. It would drive me up the wall.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Ummm... It brought to mind the words of the Welsh poet, R.S. Thomas: 'narrow but saved / in a way that men are not now'. If this is all there is to Christianity, I will have to become a nervous, guilty agnostic.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The overwhelming feeling of not fitting in with this view of the universe.
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