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290: The Kings Church, Durham, England
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The Kings Church, Durham
Mystery Worshipper: Rawlins White.
The church: The Kings Church, Durham, England.
Denomination: "A Charismatic Evangelical Congregation in the Heart of Durham" (or so says their leaflet).
The building: It was supposed to be held in Dunelm House, but was actually held in Leech Hall, part of St John's College, Durham. Leech Hall is a square room with a stage, many doors and the capacity to hold at least 200 seats. It also has a lovely red/brown colour scheme, of which even the chairs are an integral part. The origin of its name is unknown to me. There is no obvious link to the medieval medical parasite.
The church: The centre of Durham is almost entirely populated by students, so there are lots of them in the congregation. It has a vision for cell-based growth (very fitting, since Durham has a large high-security gaol!).
The neighbourhood: The hall is situated within a (highly illegal and vandalistic) stone's throw of Durham Cathedral, a World Heritage Site.
The cast: Pastors: Peter and Ruth Scott. Preacher: Vic Gledhill
What was the name of the service?
Sunday 10.30am Weekly Worship.

How full was the building?
Pretty full – although apparently there were less there than usual because of the changed location.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No. Nobody stood at the door to welcome or anything. The advantage of this was that people could sneak in (or out) undetected. Another positive effect of this policy is that you avoid having your hand pulverised by an over-enthusiastic sidesman!

Was your pew comfortable?
No pews here, but nice red seats that were just comfortable enough for you to endure the service without pain, but just uncomfortable enough to stop you from falling asleep (not that I would've done, of course...).

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was pretty chatty, with coffee, tea and orange squash served free of charge.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"I welcome you to King's Church this morning... hang on, is this mike working?"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
No printed liturgy whatsoever. There was a leaflet detailing services and notices, etc. All songs were put on an overhead projector. Pretty much everyone had brought along their own Bible, which were needed for countless references.

What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, drums and bass guitar. Two backing singers also.

Did anything distract you?
The guy sitting next to me wearing slippers and carrying a plastic dagger was quite disturbing! Also, passers-by gawping at our rendition of "Jesus be the centre" through the windows.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Pretty charismatic. Not only did it have excellent contemporary worship, but speaking in tongues, prophecy and sundry other gifts of the Spirit as well.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
59 minutes and 24 seconds – a bit long, but still very interesting.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – His accent seemed to change depending on his tone. When speaking normally, he used a fairly standard English accent, with a slight West Country twang. However, when he became animated (which was quite a lot) he would break out into an American and/or Australian accent!

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was based on the idea that too many Christians are burdened by the pressure of having to convert people and be a good witness. He argued that love for mankind is more important, and that we should be workers for God whether or not we convert millions of people. His best phrase was: "We are born again, not by good works, but for good works".

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The worship was absolutely exceptional. The worship session lasted for about 45 minutes preceding the address. It consisted of relevant, modern and lively songs, well performed by the music group, interspersed with pertinent yet spontaneous prayers, Bible readings, prophecies, tongues, etc.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The address was just too long. Even though I found it very interesting, I could smell Sunday lunch being cooked in the nearby college canteen, and the devilish forces of hunger transported me to another plane of reality where I was eating a wholesome Sunday roast...

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Just before the service ended, the pastors made a request for volunteers to help lug sound equipment back to wherever it was from. Shrewdly realising that if I stood around looking lost I would be press-ganged into humping some sub-woofers to Tibet, I made a swift exit, and was inexorably drawn to the dining table!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Refreshments are served prior to the service at 10.30 on Sunday – perhaps a wise move considering the high student presence in the organisation. They ran out of cold water for me to have squash, but instead made me some very invigorating hot squash instead.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes – my faith was reaffirmed and I came out with renewed energy to fight my doubts and problems.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Probably the quite surreal moment when a girl approached the microphone during worship and asked permission(in a surprisingly rational way) to speak in tongues. In the event, the pastors gave her permission, but do they ever refuse? It would have been interesting to see them coerce someone into suppressing the gift of the Spirit! I didn't see a stockpile of scold's bridles lying around, so I should imagine they don't.
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