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473: Tillicoultry Baptist, Clackmannanshire, Scotland
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Tillicoultry Baptist, Clackmannanshire, Scotland
Mystery Worshipper: Highland Dancer.
The church: Tillicoultry Baptist, Clackmannanshire, Scotland.
Denomination: Baptist.
The building: Traditional stone chapel. Main meeting room with lounge and kitchen added on the rear. Brightly painted inside.
The church: The church building is located right on the high street of this small town.
The neighbourhood: The town is famous in Scotland for its shopping. A huge "Sterling" furniture store and designer outlet village are within sight of the church.
The cast: David Bowker (pastor) led and preached. Peter Chirnside (of Tearfund) carried out the commissioning part of the service.
What was the name of the service?
Valedictory for a family going out to work in Nepal.

How full was the building?
Pretty full, only one or two empty pew spaces.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, a smile, firm handshake and hymbook from the lady at the door, who also offered whipered but helpful directions as to where to sit.

Was your pew comfortable?
No. As I'm used to slouching in comfy plastic chairs at church, I found this difficult. These were traditional wooden pews with a very thin strip of carpet-like material, probably to stop you sticking to the varnish.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Relaxed and fairly noisy, with people chatting and children being organized. Warm and welcoming.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning everyone, welcome to our service."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
All song words were video projected onto the wall. Mission Praise books were given out at the door, possibly for those who like to have something to hold onto while singing. Many people used Bibles which they had brought with them.

What musical instruments were played?
A band led the music and included guitars (acoustic and electric), trumpet, keyboard and a strange Celtic drum called a bodhran (it looked like a tambourine with no bells).

Did anything distract you?
Amplification wasn't used during the commissioning part of the service, which made some of it difficult to hear. This wasn't helped by the lady next to me rustling in a polythene bag. The preacher had distracting habit of removing, unfolding, using and then folding and replacing his glasses from his shirt pocket every time he had to read notes or a passage from the Bible.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Worship was a compromise of traditional hymns led in a slightly modern style and newer songs not used in their most effective way. The service was a bit of a hymn sandwich, and there wasn't enough time to let the band really lead worship in a contemporary way, which was a shame.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
24 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – A very down-to-earth, practical style. Smiley in a "I'm just like you guys and don't really know why I'm up here" kind of way. Left hearers in no doubt he really believed what he was saying.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
From John chapter 15, where Jesus talks about the vine and the branches. He commented on how the decline of the UK church may be the work of the Holy Spirit in removing dead branches, and that therefore there was nothing to worry about. He also shared his experience of finding God in the fellowship of his people and not in great spiritual experiences, which he doesn't have.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The commissioning of a family leaving next day to work in Nepal. The standard comments on the role of the church to support (with money), pray and send Angel Delights weren't particularly heavenly. But the way the family were going from this church to try to help people in poverty on the other side of the world gave hope that God might ask any of us to change direction and do something different.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I think eternity sitting in one of those pews would be very unpleasant. Why is it only churches and courtrooms that have this kind of seating?

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
When the service finished, the person sitting next to us (not the bag rustler) immediately asked if we were visiting and introduced herself.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was a fellowship lunch to which everyone was invited, with a variety of finger buffet goodies and cakes. I tried the coffee, which was acceptable. There was no cold drink available for about 10 minutes until a jug of quenching orange quash arrived.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – There was a good spread of ages in the church and a family atmosphere. It is set in the middle of the community and if I lived locally I would happily make it my regular church.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I will remember the family in Nepal and wonder how they are getting on – and probably wish I was there.
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