|460: Alderwood Manor Community Church, Lynnwood, Washington, USA|
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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.