|439: Elim, Glasgow, Scotland|
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Mystery Worshipper: Wet One (due to rain and not the waters of baptism).
The church: Elim, Govanhill, Glasgow, Scotland.
Denomination: Elim Pentecostal.
The building: Modern, low rise, shoebox-style building with faux steeple. Welcoming wrought iron gates with "Elim Church" written above them (in case you are in any doubt as to where you've come).
The church: A notice sheet for visitors to the evening service would be useful. I have gleaned from the website that the church is pretty active in the community children's ministries are thriving, there is an Alpha course and various other midweek meetings. They also pray for the local area and take evangelism seriously. A number of the stories from those who were being baptized demonstrated this.
The neighbourhood: Glasgow Elim is situated in Govanhill, an inner-city district only about a mile and a half from Glasgow city centre. There are some new build houses around the church, but the vast majority of the area consists of sandstone tenement flats. Some ugly gap sites remain from the area's industrial past. The notorious Gorbals is literally across the road from the church, but this area has been subject to vigorous regeneration in the past few years, and, it's got to be said, looks great. Govanhill itself still suffers from drug problems and associated petty crime (someone keeps an eye on the cars while the service is on) and presents a great challenge to any church as the area is ethnically very mixed.
The cast: They didn't introduce themselves. A quick peek at the lineup on the website allows me to deduce that it was Pastor Simon Foster. The senior pastor, Kevin Peat, introduced him. "Eric" led worship.
What was the name of the service?
Evening Baptismal Service.
How full was the building?
Packed full I'd guess 300-350 people. It turned out there were loads of guests to see the baptisms as well as visitors from a smaller Elim fellowship on the other side of the city.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A handshake at the door, no acknowledgment from the person sitting beside me, nor from anyone else for that matter.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, it was a very comfy padded chair. Just as well, as it and I were at the start of a long relationship!
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Buzzing. There was a definite air of excitement. Some of that was down to the scrabble to get a chair. It felt like a warm family, but I was watching it all from the outside. I think we were perhaps all just glad to get inside out of the torrential rain.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening everybody. Give me a wave if you can hear me." I was horrified to notice that the chatter went on unabated till the pastor repeated this.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. Words for songs were projected onto two screens, at both ends of the world's longest platform. Most people (apart from aforementioned visitors) seemed to have Bibles with them.
What musical instruments were played?
Drums, bass, keyboard, guitar and saxophone. There were some singers, but it was impossible to hear them above the band.
Did anything distract you?
I must be the world's least attentive Mystery Worshipper. Loads distracted me trying to work out where the platform started and finished. It was at least the length of two buses. If you imagine the inside of the church to be a shoebox shape, the platform ran the length of the long side. I was wondering why the platform wasn't along the short side. I was distracted by the non-participatory attitude of many people sitting near me, and then I realized they were non-churchy friends and relatives of the baptismal candidates. I must also confess to trying to read the saxophonist's tattoos!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was wonderful. The band played contemporary worship songs that made you want to REALLY sing and dance (steady on!). The saxophonist had to be heard to be believed. Fantastic. And not just the tattoos. The worship had a feel of restraint to it, as 10 people were to be baptized and time was tight. I certainly felt that we just got going when we had to sit down again. I sang many songs that were new to me, but this didn't detract from the worship.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Despite the pastor saying that the sermon would only last 10 minutes, it lasted 15. Warning, pastors: Never say how long your sermon is going to last unless you can deliver the goods!
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 Pastor Simon did a good line in accents the Birmingham one was most impressive. Fantastic jokes.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Some of us might be feeling lost and needing direction. Jesus is the way.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Without a doubt, hearing testimony after testimony from the 10 baptismal candidates: powerful stories of how God was at work in their lives. The heartfelt worship and especially the saxophone solos. Hearing this instrument made me think of heaven. I bet there are brass instruments there!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Feeling that I was out of it because of the layout of the room I was sitting as far away as possible from all the splashing about in the baptismal tank. The people worshipping over there were faint arm-raising blobs on the horizon. And the fact that I felt that I was sitting amongst people who were politely tolerating what was going on but really thought we were all fruitcakes.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Ummm, everyone walked past me to go out. I think they thought I was waiting for someone else. I would have found it really hard to make any response to the preacher's appeal (had I not been a Christian) because everyone seemed to be with someone else.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There wasn't any. It was announced though that there was tea and coffee and cakes for those who had been baptized and their visitors. It looks as if the church doesn't have room to serve tea and coffee to hundreds of people.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 Only if I could change the layout of the meeting room. And get to know someone else apart from my chair!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely. No matter what our background, when you hear stories of a great God turning people's lives right round, it makes your heart glad.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The moving story from a girl who had been in care and now had found love and acceptance from God as her father.