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463: Bar Hill Church, Bar Hill, Cambridgeshire
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Bar Hill Church, Bar Hill, Cambridgeshire
Mystery Worshipper: Mr Kipling.
The church: Bar Hill Church, Bar Hill, Cambridgeshire
Denomination: Ecumenical.
The building: The original church was opened in 1972. As the congregation grew, it was necessary to build a new, larger worship area, which was done in 1991. I heard one regular describe the building as looking a bit like a fire station.
The church: This is an ecumenical church, and so the regular worshippers are comprised of Baptist, Church of England, Methodist, Society of Friends and United Reformed. In theory, the ministers can be from any one of these denominations. At present, both full-time clergy are Anglican.
The neighbourhood: Bar Hill is a new village on the outskirts of Cambridge. It was built in the 1960s and has been devoloping up to the present day. Mainly residential and dominated by a large Tesco's Superstore.
The cast: The Rt. Rev. Anthon Russell, Bishop of Ely, president and preacher. Rev. Gary Reniso and Rev. Paul Rush were assisting.
What was the name of the service?
A Service of Baptism, Confirmation and Reception into Membership.

How full was the building?
Pretty much packed to capacity with extra chairs out, although this was a special occasion. However, I'm told that regular Sunday congregations are in the region of 200.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes – a man wearing a name badge was standing just inside the door, and appeared to be there specifically to welcome people. The lady giving out the service sheet smiled and said good morning.

Was your pew comfortable?
Individual plastic chairs. Comfortable enough.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quite a lot of chatter and the music group supplying "coming in" music.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"We begin our service with a verse from Scripture."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Printed sheets. Hymns and choruses were from an overhead projector. Bibles (NIV) were also available.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano, guitar, flute, drums and a singing group.

Did anything distract you?
I couldn't help wondering who had donated their curtains to make the bishop's cope.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Unique is how I would describe it. Most of the liturgy was Anglican (Common Worship) with bits from the other denominations. A nice mix of formality and informality. Great emphasis was put on the fact that all the candidates were being received as members of all the denominations involved in the church. The baptism was by total immersion (first time I'd seen that) and the minister almost baptized himself as he missed his footing getting into the baptistry!

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – I've heard so many bishops come across as rather out of touch and boring, but Bishop Anthony was humorous, spoke very well and managed to hold my attention throughout.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The importance of the confirmation/baptism vows and the commitment we all have to keep those vows every day of our lives.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The look of utter joy on the faces of the candidates as they were welcomed. Very moving.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
To begin with, the place was freezing cold. It had warmed up by the sermon, but I was reminded of the cold by a freezing gust every time the door was opened.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Most people were busy congratulating the newly-confirmed candidates, so I deliberately stayed in the background, although the impression I got was that they were a friendly and welcoming bunch. As I left, the minister smiled, shook my hand and said, "Hello, nice to have you with us". I had to go back into the church (I'd forgotten something) and as I left for a second time, the minister smiled, shook my hand and said, "Hello, nice to have you with us".

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea and coffee were on offer. This being a confirmation service, lunch was laid on as well.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – Although I very much enjoyed the service, I prefer things higher up the candle, but that's just my personal preference.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Definitely. It is wonderful to see different denominations working together, each keeping their own identity while fully accepting others.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The curtains worn by the bishop.
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