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462: Christ the King, Brighton, England
Other reports | Comment on this report
Christ the King, Brighton, England
Mystery Worshipper: William Booth.
The church: Christ the King, Clarendon Centre, New England St, Brighton, England.
Denomination: New Frontiers International.
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.
The building: The building is a large, new building, resembling a conference centre more than a traditional church. It has a large meeting hall upstairs (where the service was held) with a view across the rooftops of Brighton. There were a number of other rooms signposted inside.
The church: They are the founders of the New Frontiers International stream of new churches, best known for their Stoneleigh gatherings and associated worship albums. They have a strong cell church emphasis. The church is home to a number of high profile "new church" personalities and musicians, including Terry Virgo, Stuart Townsend, Paul Oakley and Dave Fellingham.
The neighbourhood: The church is located near the centre of Brighton and very close to the railway station. It is hidden away down a back street such that you would struggle to find it without a map. Their building stands out from the older office blocks that surround it. Nearby, in the railway station car park, was a large car boot sale which nearly tempted me into a diversion.
The cast: It was difficult to tell who was who. The notice sheet made a special effort to tell you which leaders were elsewhere, but did not mention who was actually present! The leader of the service was never introduced. The sermon was given by Peter Brooks, the senior pastor. Some announcements were made by another person, also not introduced, with more announcements by Dave Fellingham. There was a music group, who may have been the band "Phatfish". It all gave the impression of a friendly group, but it made it difficult to feel included.
What was the name of the service?
The service didn't have a name. It was the Sunday morning service.

How full was the building?
The main body of the hall was fairly full but not cramped, and there were balconies at each side which were closed off. Around 600 people were present and probably another 250 people could have been fitted in.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was given a notice sheet and a cheery hello as I went in. I had to follow the signs and the crowd to the main hall. No one came to welcome me personally, but in a church so large it's hard to spot new people – and they did try to make up for it after the service.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was a padded bench on a banked section at the back of the hall. Leg room was sufficient (and for me, at over 6ft tall, there are not many churches where that is the case). I was still comfy after two hours, so no complaints.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Busy. People were constantly arriving and chatting to others they knew. There was a generally friendly atmosphere.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. I hope you will be this noisy when we start to worship."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None were given out (except the notice sheet). All the songs were on screens from a video projector. A lot of the congregation had brought their own Bibles.

What musical instruments were played?
Drums, keyboard, guitar and bass.

Did anything distract you?
Part of the way through the service the children left for their groups. During the sermon a scrolling red LED display was used to summon parents to pick up their (presumably upset) children. Every time a new name appeared on the display it seemed everyone in the hall saw it except the person it was intended for, so someone from the other side of the hall would go running across to tell them.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Lively and heartfelt. The numbers present meant there was quite a volume, making it possible to sing out without deafening the person in front. The worship leader and group were very competent without being overpowering. There was also an "open mic" opportunity for people with anything to share to do so.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
40 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – He seemed to talk for a long time without saying much. Particularly towards the end it was easy to lose attention and hard to get it back.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
There were three points: The motivation for our mission. The mandate for our mission. The message of our mission. The first point took 30 minutes, after which I was getting very worried. He spoke mainly on why we should share Jesus with the world. The video projector was used for periodic bullet points that seemed to have no purpose.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The numbers of people present and the well-led music made the worship a real joy. The strong focus on evangelism was good to see.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
If the whole sermon had been condensed into 20 minutes it might have been alright. By the end I was just bored.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Afterwards they serve drinks downstairs. During the service they specifically requested anyone new or visiting to go and get their drinks from a different area, where someone could welcome you. I did as I was told and had a nice chat with one of the church members. If you are not just visiting, they will put you in touch with one of their cell groups, and there are also printed welcome packs available with contact details. It was good to see them make this effort to be welcoming, as in many large churches its easy to be anonymous.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea (although coffee and squash were available) served in a polystyrene cup with a plastic cupholder.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I like the idea of cell groups, the worship is good, and they have a strong focus on evangelism. The only thing that stops them getting a 10 is maybe the church is a bit too big to feel comfortable.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The previous Sunday had been the gift day. During the service they announced that they had raised 133,000!
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