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315: The Church of the Good Shepherd, Crookhorn, Portsmouth, England
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The Church of the Good Shepherd, Crookhorn, Portsmouth
Mystery Worshipper: Habsburg.
The church: The Church of the Good Shepherd, Crookhorn, Portsmouth, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Modern church building with large central hall and smaller bookstore, kitchen and other meeting rooms.
The church: The vicar, Andy Rimmer, is the chaplain to Portsmouth Football Club, which were languishing near the bottom of the First Division, with one game to play, on the very afternoon of this service.
The neighbourhood: An absolutely gorgeous setting of the Hampshire countryside, overlooking the Portsmouth coast, with the Isle of Wight in the distance.
The cast: Leader and Preacher: Rev. Andy Rimmer.
What was the name of the service?
Morning Worship – Family Service.

How full was the building?
The hall was full, with about 125 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
As I entered the church I was handed an order of service and notice sheet by a very enthusiastic young boy (five years old, tops).

Was your pew comfortable?
As plastic chairs go, mine was pretty OK.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was family worship, so it was full of families with lots of children running around, exercising their lungs for all they were worth. This activity subsided but never quite departed once the service started.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"If you'd like to stand, we're going to start with our first hymn, All people that on Earth do dwell."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Just a single laminated sheet with the most important bits from Morning Worship, Common Prayer.

What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, guitar, saxophone and drums.

Did anything distract you?
We had a rather enthusiastic worship leader on the keyboard who seemed to turn a deeper shade of purple as the worship continued – as he got more and more into what he was doing.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Typically charismatic. Alongside the band there were a number of people waving banners and flags at the back of the hall. There was a heavy emphasis on children's songs, with the usual actions to accompany. It's good once in a while to see a bunch of middle-Englanders shout "wahey" at the top of their voices isn't it?

Exactly how long was the sermon?
20 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Simple, lively and to the point, Andy Rimmer seemed comfortable in his position as preacher.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
As chaplain of Portsmouth Football Club, Andy preached on "God's Team – The Manager", using 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 as his passage. His main emphasis was: If Christianity is like playing football, where are we in the game? Are we spectating or playing? Are we in the showers, being cleaned and resting from our game so far? If we are playing, are we playing for all our worth? He also talked about the things that are really important in life... for example, if Portsmouth were relegated at that afternoon's game, it didn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. It sounds a bit cheesy (and a heavy theological work it wasn't), but Andy addressed the practicalities of living as a Christian in a down-to-earth and easy way.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Not having a collection plate passed around, which I think makes visitors feel guilty when attending a church for the first time (I popped my Mystery Worshipper visiting card in an offertory box at the back). This church has an emphasis on regular giving by covenant.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The abominable joke on the notice sheet: When Adam didn't get home until the early hours of the morning, Eve was jealous and suspicious. "But we're the only people in the whole of creation!" protested Adam. Mollified, Eve snuggled up to him. However, she counted his ribs very carefully when he went to sleep!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I came along with a friend so I joined him and his family for a cup of coffee. I had a chat with the vicar and some other members of the congregation.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Hot tea or coffee, with juice for the kids. Biscuits aplenty.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – If I had a family in the area I wouldn't have any qualms about joining this church, especially if I could get a few free football tickets out of Andy!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely. It's good being in a church where the children are allowed to be children. This seems a lively and caring, family-oriented community.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Nothing to do with the church service, but afterwards we went to watch Portsmouth retain its place in the First Division with a magnificent 3-0 win over Barnsley. We were sat right behind the goal where the final two goals were scored, giving us a great view.
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