|492: Rome Baptist, Rome, Italy|
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Mystery Worshipper: Iconoclast.
The church: Rome Baptist, Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome, Italy.
Denomination: Southern Baptist.
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The building: Plain, unremarkable non-conformist church tucked back from the main square.
The church: Seemed very international every tribe and nation under heaven, I should think, despite the fact they also have Filipino and other national congregations meeting in the building at other times. Quite a lot of visitors, as one would expect in a tourist city, mostly Americans but some British too.
The neighbourhood: Lots of ancient buildings and ruins in the area, including the Pantheon.
The cast: Pastor David Hodgdon, and Choir Director Edgar Ocasion.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Bulging at the seams, with extra chairs being put out.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
There was a handshake as we went in, all visitors were asked to stand and introduce themselves, and as two of us were with a BBC pilgrimage singing in various churches in Rome a lot of people showed interest afterwards and one or two actually showed up at a rehearsal later in the week.
Was your pew comfortable?
Stacking chairs, quite comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It seemed as if a lot of gossip was being exchanged.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"I want to welcome you to Rome Baptist Church."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The hymn book seemed to be a current Southern Baptist publication which contained lots of Moody & Sankey-type hymns. Some used a Bible, and one song was on the service sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
Latecomers struggling to find seats. I was also distracted by the feelings aroused by paying my first visit to a Baptist church since leaving one a few years ago.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I'm not experienced in American-style worship, but I guess this was probably typical, fairly lively but no waving of hands or speaking in tongues that I was aware of. The order of service was laid out on the service sheet and there were contributions from the church choir and a visiting choir.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Exactly 20 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
3 I found it rather unexciting and had difficulty concentrating.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Rosh Hashanah the day of trumpets when God wanted to get the people of Israel's attention, and when he covered Israel's sins. The problem is the sin in the lives of everyone, but the sin problem of the world is not out of God's hands. My sin is the only sin I can do anything about.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
One thing I really liked was the way the minister called the children to the front for the "children's sermon" and then sat down on the floor with them. I didn't really understand what he was trying to teach them but his manner was very good.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Lots of sin! Seriously, though, perhaps it all seemed a bit mediocre.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Lots of people spoke to us and wanted to know exactly what we were doing they thought we were doing concerts whereas in fact we were broadcasting Sunday worship and the daily service on Radio 4 for a week. They were very friendly and welcoming.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
We didn't stop.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 It wouldn't really be practical to commute to Rome!
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 minister's approach to the children.