|232: His People, Baxter Theatre, Cape Town, South Africa|
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Mystery Worshipper: The Pimpernel.
The church: His People, Baxter Theatre, Cape Town, South Africa.
Denomination: His People is an independent group.
The building: Plush 70s theatre complex lit by things that look like the return of many ET mother ships. The church itself is in the theatre and has tasteful flowers and carpets on the stage with a glass pulpit and a heavy-duty sound system.
The neighbourhood: This is a university theatre and so is surrounded by halls of residence.
The cast: The preacher was Lukas Nakos. During the service, about five other pastors, all introduced by their first names, popped up from the reserved section at the front to do their bit.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Over 1000 people. I had to get there 30 minutes early to guarantee a seat. The congregation was full of student types, fully representing South Africa's rainbow nation (about the only place in the whole of Cape Town where I've seen this).
Did anyone welcome you personally?
One of the smartly-dressed ushers gave me a monthly bulletin at the door. After the first worship session, all first-time visitors were asked to raise their hands and were given a welcome pack and a round of applause. For once, this didn't seem tacky.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, thank you. A very comfy theatre chair. Glad I got there early, loads of people were sitting on the aisle steps for two hours or standing at the back.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Expectant. People seemed excited to be there. The worship band was doing a sound check by playing worship music, starting with "Shackles (Praise You)" by Mary Mary. By 25 minutes to kick-off, there were no more seats and people were still flooding in.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening everyone. To the owner of the white Toyota CA, your lights are on."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Just the Bible, read from the Amplified Version and the New International Version. All songs were on the OHP (eventually, some holy mumbling necessary while they found the sheets).
What musical instruments were played?
Two keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, tambourine, some form of African drum and a choir of nine.
Did anything distract you?
The guy behind me with seriously bad breath.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fervent and open and LOUD. The worship group was incredible. A few of the songs were in Xhosa, the rest were Vineyard-style stuff. Each song seemed to end with a heartfelt round of applause to God, again surprisingly un-naff.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
34 minutes, though it seemed a lot shorter.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 he had enough points and brilliant illustrations to last for a whole year in most churches. There were some slightly disturbing moments when he started to look like Woody Harrelson (I could just need new glasses though).
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The greatness of God's character and how our salvation is just the starting point, all leading up to an altar call at the end which loads of people responded to.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
If you were an Anglo-Catholic or even a traditional evangelical, pretty well all of it. For me, just the guy with bad breath.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No chance to hang around, just kind of got swept out of the theatre on a tide of people.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No coffee! And not a quiche in sight.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 unless you got into one of their many cell groups pretty sharpish, it would be easy to get lost in the mass of people.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Oh yes. Still singing and reflecting on the sermon now.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
To make sure I get there early enough to get a good seat.