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213: St George's, Leeds, England
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St George's, Leeds, England
Mystery Worshipper: The People's Front of Judea (9th West Yorkshire division).
The church: St George's, Leeds, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: An average Leeds municipal building, really. Big, grand and grey, built in the industrial heyday of the north.
The neighbourhood: Right in the city centre, near the town hall and one of the most downtrodden areas of Leeds. Lots of homeless people were sitting around the church and inside.
The cast: David Hawkins led the worship and Jane Morris preached.
What was the name of the service?
Guest Service (for bringing non-Christian friends).

How full was the building?
Half full – the back half of the church was roped off.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, first they gave us a candle, and then the notice sheet. One of our candles was defective and had to be replaced.

Was your pew comfortable?
The green padded chairs were quite agreeable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
We only got ten seconds of it – but it seemed chatty and comfortable, quite relaxed. The minister suddenly appeared at the lectern while we were still finding seats, and said...

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"As people are still coming in, let us turn in Songs of Fellowship and sing..."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Too many. Songs of Fellowship, the red St George's worship book, and the Bible. At one point we turned to prayer 6 (on page 5), only to be told to find a hymn we were going to sing first. Exceptional co-ordination (or a second pair of hands) would have been useful at this point.

What musical instruments were played?
Synth, guitar, and a badly-miked cello.

Did anything distract you?
The balding Jesus picture painted above the altar. It was like a Renaissance fresco and very scary. Jesus had only one-and-a-half legs (impersonating Long John Silver?). There was also a man in charge of the dimmer switch who had an irresistible urge to play with it.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A mix of "oh God, you're really, really great" songs, plus one Charles Wesley for bonus theological content.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
18 minutes and 36 seconds.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
The five of us scored it respectively: 3, 4, 4, 4, 6. This was classic evangelical training college stuff: the conclusion had 3 points and they all began with the syllable "re-".

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The notice sheet said it would be on the theme "Is it true?" It wasn't. It was about journeys – across the world, through life, with God and down the road to Emmaus. Oh and reconciliation, resurrection and recognition.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
We were invited to light candles and place them on the sanctuary floor as a representation of our prayers to God... and we thought that was kinda funky.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The interminably shallow songs we sang at the beginning. Some people found parts of the service boring and slow. Our "insider" friend told us that some of the regulars found it boring as well.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Most of us had people talking to us in a friendly way. One of our number didn't have anyone talk to them, but said that she found it a friendly atmosphere anyway.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Top marks here. Tea was made in a pot, coffee was fab, and there was a mixed selection of cake and biscuits.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
We voted: 1, 3, 5 and 6 – and our insider (who goes here regularly) rated it at 7.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
3 "no"s, one "not today" and a "kinda".

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Candles, the homeless asking for money (the old "I haven't eaten for two days routine"), the balding (pirate) Jesus, the lights dimming and brightening.
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