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460: Alderwood Manor Community Church, Lynnwood, Washington, USA
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Alderwood Manor Community Church, Lynnwood, Washington, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Ralegh.
The church: Alderwood Manor Community Church, Lynnwood, Washington, USA.
Denomination: Independent Fundamental Churches of America. This denomination, formed in 1963, is an "association of Bible believing, independent fundamental churches."
The building: The church is basically hexagonal in shape. There is a series of offices, a library, nursery, place for toddlers and a fireside room, all surrounding the main auditorium on three sides. The auditorium has three sections, with rows of chairs down a gradual incline to the main platform. The choir and orchestra sit to the right of the platform. There are stained glass windows on the right and left in the shape of interlocked crosses. Three large interlocked metal crosses are on the wall just to the left and behind the main platform and behind the choir there is a large mural of two angels blowing trumpets. A row of evergreen trees runs along the back of the platform.
The church: This is a large, active church. It supports about 20 missionaries of its own around the world, has extensive religious education classes for both adults and children, has sponsored another church (Snohomish Community Church) and is very active in the community.
The neighbourhood: When this church was founded about 80 years ago, it was a rural area with mink and horse farms, with houses few and far between. Since then, the area has become a suburb of Seattle. The church is now surrounded by fast-food restaurants, grocery stores and the Alderwood Mall, a major shopping center for the area.
The cast: Tony Bollen (welcomed us to the church and led the congregation in singing Christmas carols); Brad McConnaughey, Senior Pastor; Bill Meiter, Pastor.
What was the name of the service?
11.00am Worship Service.

How full was the building?
When the service started, the church was about two-thirds full, but people kept coming in until it was nearly full. I estimate somewhat over 300 people in all.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
As you enter the church, it's like entering a theater lobby. Straight ahead against the wall was a welcome center where people passed out brochures and free Bibles to newcomers. As I entered the auditorium, a man handed me a program and said, "hello."

Was your pew comfortable?
Metal chairs with padded seats and backs linked together in rows. Quite comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Like a theater before curtain time. The orchestra was warming up. People were moving about, greeting each other. There was a lot of walking about before people started finally taking their seats.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, everyone. So nice to see you all. Merry Christmas to you all."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Holy Bible, New International Version. During the sermon, the pastor warned that many of the Bibles had been incorrectly assembled by the printers so that the pages were out of order. He told us, "Don't worry. Isaiah is in there somewhere!" The Bible under my chair appeared to be in proper order.

What musical instruments were played?
A full orchestra of about 25 people, with piano, harpsichord, strings, brasses and woodwinds, along with a 60-person choir.

Did anything distract you?
The pastor's hairstyle. From my vantage point in the balcony, it seemed to stick up in the middle, making it almost look as if he had a Mohawk haircut.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The style kept changing. It began in a very informal and friendly way with announcements. We were instructed to wish each other a Merry Christmas, and we were led in traditional Christmas carols (the words were projected on a screen behind the podium). Then followed a formal, quite beautiful performance of excerpts from Handel's Messiah. This was followed by a long sermon delivered in what I would describe as low-key evangelical. The pastor prompted us for amens periodically, but the crowd seemed pretty reserved in its responses.

Alderwood Manor Community Church, Lynnwood, Washington, USA

Exactly how long was the sermon?
35 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – The sermon reminded me of a college lecture. The points he made and the quotes from his sermon were projected on the screen behind the platform. And in fact there was a sheet within the handout that you could fill in as he went through the three points of his sermon. The pastor seemed to wander at times, particularly with his metaphorical stories. One that I found particularly jarring was when he compared a man, going to live among pigs, with Jesus coming to live among us. He told a few jokes, and the congregation responded with laughter, but I didn't feel he made a strong connection with the congregation.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
"Is Christmas Controversial?" The holiday has arisen out of centuries of controversy: when Jesus was born, the virgin birth, God made flesh. In contrast, Jesus' resurrection was celebrated for hundreds of years before anyone started celebrating his birth. The central controversy, however, is whether Jesus was in fact an incarnation of God. We all have to resolve this controversy for ourselves, and our personal salvation depends on our resolving to accept him as our Savior.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The singing of the Messiah by the full choir. The soloists varied in quality, from full clear notes to wavering and thin. But when the full choir sang, it was truly heavenly.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
About 25 minutes into the sermon, which ran on far too long.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Stayed lost. People who had accepted Christ as their Savior during the service were invited up to speak to the "worship team." But as I stood at the back, people just kept walking by me on their way out or to talk to friends. The worship team was busy up by the platform.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There were about six coffee carafes in the lobby, with flavored coffee, 100 per cent Columbian, and decaf. Nothing to eat, nobody seemed to be gathering after the service. In fact, a sign indicated that the coffee was to be drunk in the lobby "before the service."

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – I don't really appreciate the evangelical style. The main thrust of the service seemed to be to bring new people to Jesus, rather than to provide a worship opportunity to those already within the church.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I was impressed by the youthfulness of the congregation. There were many young couples in their 20s and 30s with children. And even though some were yawning, many of the teenagers in the crowd dutifully followed the pastor as he directed us from passage to passage. To see people so involved and happy in their worship did make me feel glad to be a Christian.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The singing of the Messiah.

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