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275: Woodlands Christian Centre, Clifton, Bristol, England
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Woodlands Christian Centre, Clifton, Bristol
Mystery Worshipper: Flat Boy Jim Lad.
The church: Woodlands Christian Centre, Clifton, Bristol, England.
Denomination: Evangelical.
The building: Traditional old stone church under reconstruction. There is a worship band where the altar used to be, a carpeted floor, and the nice stone scenery ends quite abruptly with a whitewashed ceiling. There are rooms being built upstairs to house up to 16 students (hence the scaffolding and new windows in the photo). Stained glass windows and stone pillars remain.
The neighbourhood: Just cars, trees and tarmac.
The cast: Dave Mitchell was the MC, with worship led by Lesley. I didn't catch the name of the speaker. He was quite tall.
What was the name of the service?
Sunday morning service.

How full was the building?
About 80 per cent of the 350ish seats were taken.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Very friendly welcome from the chair-putter-outer. As I sat shivering, wishing I hadn't arrived half an hour before everyone else, the tea and coffee-setter-upper treated me to a pre-service beverage. Suspicious, I checked to see if my Mystery Worshipper calling card was showing. It wasn't, so top marks.

Was your pew comfortable?
I imagine that worshippers of yesteryear would have had to contend with a pew. I had a beige plastic chair, which was harmless enough.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
By about 10 minutes before the service the place was alive with friendly chit-chat, with a few warm hugs over the backs of seats.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. Sorry it's a bit cold in here this morning."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Bibles were handed out at the start of the sermon and words to the songs were on an OHP.

What musical instruments were played?
Guitar, sax, electric piano, congas, bass guitar, backing singers.

Did anything distract you?
I was unable to pinpoint the owner of a screaming infant with a suitable icy glare.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was both happy and clappy, but with a real sense that the congregation were there to worship God and not just go through the motions week in, week out. The variety of instruments used gave a fresh sound to quite a relaxed worship session and it was easy to worship without feeling self-conscious.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – There were few deviations from the written notes, and he had a dry and easy-to-listen-to delivery.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Hebrews chapter 12. The speaker likened living as a Christian to running a race where we must keep our eyes on the goal – Jesus. "Being a Christian is as much about running the race as being in it in the first place." Some interesting thoughts at the start of a new year.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The second time of worship was a chance to make a response to anything you felt God had said to you through the sermon. A heart-felt rendition of "Be thou my vision" was worth getting out of bed for on its own.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Having queued for five minutes to get a biscuit to go with my coffee, the man in front of me decided that his need was greater than mine and scoffed the last one. He obviously didn't know who he was dealing with. Tsk.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
As I stood sipping from my polystyrene cup, there were a few nods and smiles from passers-by and fellow loiterers, but nothing more than that. After a few minutes I went to re-join some friends I'd come with only to find that one of them had sparked up a conversation with the natives and she'd even been given a guided tour of the new rooms upstairs. Perhaps it's because I'm not a girl. Tsk.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It did the trick.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9. On line for a 10, but Mr Biscuits was messing with the wrong guy.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely. To sit in a room full of strangers without feeling like an outsider is surely what it's all about.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Dave Mitchell's plastic novelty ears. I don't know what they were in aid of but it was an impressive icebreaker.
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