|313: Cambridge City Church, Cambridge, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Elihu.
The church: Cambridge City Church, Cambridge, England.
Denomination: New Frontiers International (charismatic evangelical).
The building: The church currently meets in the Perse School for Girls, in an indifferent modern building. However, I am told the church has Plans.
The church: As is probably to be expected in Cambridge, there were lots of students in the congregation, but there were also plenty of normal people and families. Cambrige City Church is not to be confused with Cambrige Community Church or City Life Church.
The neighbourhood: The school is just to the south of the city centre, surrounded by flats. The area is a little down at heel.
The cast: The worship was led by the Holy Spirit. A guy called Nick gave him a hand. The talk was given by Mr David Coak.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
250-300 people, 90-odd per cent of capacity.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Several people said "hello" in a friendly fashion as I walked in. I sat in the corner at the back. The room got fuller and fuller but for some reason I was sitting in a small oasis of empty seats. And I swear I had showered that morning too. Then some random people invited me over to sit with them, so I wasn't on my own. Which was sweet. During the service they ask newcomers to fess up and raise a hand (typical charismatics) into which they place a welcome/information pack. It has a nice pen in it. They like you to fill in a form with your details so they can contact you personally to welcome you. You probably can't get much more welcoming than this.
Was your pew comfortable?
Plastic chair. Suspiciously like a school chair in fact. Just the right balance between comfort and mortification of the flesh. Not that you get to sit in it all that much at this kind of church.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Lots of people chatting and greeting each other.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
Something along the lines of: "Good morning, good morning, it's after half ten so this is your 30 second warning... I hate being strict at the start of a meeting, but God is keen to do business with us and..." This was followed 30 seconds later by: "Hi, I'm Nick and I'll be looking after the meeting this morning."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A bring-your-own Bible. Songs (and even a bona fide hymn or two) were on the OHP.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, guitars, etc. I thought I was to be spared the tambourines, but at least two people appeared to have brought their own.
Did anything distract you?
A large bee caused some consternation at one point. There also seemed to be an impromptu cheerleader/dance troupe formed over on one side during the worship.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very happy. And quite clappy, though it can be hard to clap with one hand stuck up in the air. I never felt it was irreverent or cringe-making, though, and everyone seemed to be sincerely and joyfully praising God.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
47 minutes. It felt shorter.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 Engaging, friendly, not at all over-the-top delivery. He did jump up and down a bit to demonstrate rejoicing, which was entertaining. Nice balance between humour and seriousness. It was also clear that Mr Coak had done his homework and knew what he was talking about. He applied the passage (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22) to both worship and life in general very well. My attention was held as well as could be expected given the length of the thing, the fact we'd been going over an hour before he got started, and that as a Methodist I am not used to these marathons. My only criticism would be that, especially when reading quotes, he spoke a little fast, and sometimes a little quietly. But that's just nitpicking.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Rejoice in the truth, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances and don't put out the Spirit's fire. Not a big ask, then.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Being with so many people who were passionate about their faith and obviously enjoying the worship.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I find charismatic worship a little difficult, but that is probably more to do with my being an emotional cripple than with the church itself. If this style is your thing, then I doubt you could fault this church.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I knew some people there and talked to them afterwards. However, I suspect even a complete stranger would not be left feeling like one for long.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Honest coffee in a real cup.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 If I was a charismatic, I'd give it a 9 (only God is perfect and there were tambourines, after all). I intend to go back sometime, but I will stick to my own more straight-laced church for the moment.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. Definitely. It also made me glad all those other people were Christians, too!
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
To have an "attitude of gratitude", as the preacher said.