|132: Hounslow Evangelical Church, Hounslow, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Matthew (24:44).
The church: Hounslow Evangelical Church, Hounslow, Middlesex, England.
The building: A modern building on a busy road, relocated to its present site 13 years ago when its previous building was compulsorily purchased to build a large shopping centre.
The neighbourhood: Just outside Hounslow Town Centre, very close to the flight path into Heathrow airport.
The cast: The service was led by "Alan", with "Arthur" preaching. Everyone was on first name terms and I couldn't find out their surnames.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About half full. I was told that they normally had about 70 to their morning service, but there were only 50 today. It was a multi-racial congregation with a mix probably in line with that of Hounslow itself.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
When we entered we were greeted with, "Good morning, where are you from?" and handed a Bible and hymn book. As we entered the church, the preacher who was seated in the congregation said "hello". As we sat down, another gentleman came over and starting talking with us. Later, a lady came and sat next to my wife and entered into a friendly conversation. I was very impressed. This is certainly the way to make someone feel at home.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. Seating consisted of soft chairs with ledges underneath for books.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Everybody was chatting and the musicians were warming up.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning to you all. We are rather low in numbers today with people sick and our minister and his family away."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Mission Praise, plus more recent hymns on the overhead projector, and the NIV Bible.
What musical instruments were played?
Guitar, violin, and recorder.
Did anything distract you?
A large proportion of the congregation appeared to drift in after the service started, during the first 15 minutes. Surprising, as the service did not start until 11.00am.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was definitely happy, but not very clappy. The children stayed in for the first 30 minutes, then left before the sermon. Before the last hymn, we were told that a communion service would follow the main service and those who wanted to could leave before it started. Nobody did, and if we had wanted to do so, we would have felt very awkward leaving. If this is typical, perhaps it would be better to treat it as one service?
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6. Arthur was elderly and unfortunately his delivery suffered slightly as a result. His message was good, however, and a number of points he made were remembered later.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
A Bible study based on 1 John JOY (Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last).
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Throughout the service a little girl (about three years old) wandered about the church. What would the adults do? They were happy to let her wander, walk up to the front and hand some keys to the worship leader, and pick up the offering bag. Even when she sat on a step at the front and banged her shoe against the wood, they persuaded her to stop rather than force her. It is too easy to try and restrict a young child and end up with floods of tears and the service ruined. This was very well handled parents would feel at ease bringing their child back another time.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
A collection was taken during the main service but then, half-way through the communion, we were told that the communion collection was to be taken. The second collection was for a different worthy cause, but it would have been awkward for visitors who had no other money left.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't get a chance to hang around. We were approached while we were still in our place once again, a sign that we were really welcome.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There wasn't any. Everybody hung around chatting and a cup of something would have been very welcome (though it wasn't needed as an icebreaker).
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
Not quite my cup of tea, but if someone lived in the area and was looking to link up with a church where they could easily fit in, they could do a lot worse than try here. For me: 6; but for someone who enjoys the evangelical style of worship, it would be well worth a try: 8.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. And a church that makes people this welcome deserves to thrive.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The way the worship leader just smiled when the young child wandered up to him during his part of the service.