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507: Mt Gambier Baptist, Mt Gambier, South Australia
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Mt Gambier Baptist, Mt Gambier, South Australia
Mystery Worshipper: Mag.
The church: Mt Gambier Baptist, Mt Gambier, South Australia.
Denomination: Baptist.
The building: Modern, about 20 years old. Hexagonal shape, red brick, set in a nice garden.
The church: Quite a mixture of ages, especially evident as it was a combined service.
The cast: Rev. John Smith. The name of the young female worship leader was not indicated.
What was the name of the service?

How full was the building?
About half full, but it was the Sunday after Christmas, with many away on holidays.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were welcomed at the door by two professionals giving out news sheets. The guy sitting next to us introduced himself, but he was not a regular. A couple of others said hello and when we said we went to a Uniting Church, they said that we would find this service very different. We wondered what stereotype they were using!

Was your pew comfortable?
There were pews of the modern sort – upholstered and fairly comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Just a buzz of talk and the musicians getting organised. It was disconcerting when the piped music clashed with the piano player, who was rehearsing.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. We're just going to praise the Lord!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
No hymn books, although one traditional song was used. This and the other songs were all on the overhead projector. There were NIV Bibles on the pews.

What musical instruments were played?
There was a band with five women singers. Plus a baby grand piano, violin, drums, clarinet and guitar.

Did anything distract you?
The man next to me (visiting) was a heavy breather. I could hear him praying in tongues during the prayers, and he "Amen!"-ed and "Thank you Jesus!"-ed throughout. Answered all the rhetorical questions, too...

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Happy-clappy but restrained – that is, not quite super-Pentecostal. At the end of the service, we had to sing the last verse again and there was nearly an altar call. I was waiting for the praying for people to fall over bit, but it never came. I have been part of the Baptist Church in the past and got the feeling this one was proud of not being stuffy and conventional and thought of itself as rather upbeat and modern. It didn't quite make it!

Exactly how long was the sermon?
To the exact minute – 40 minutes. About 30 minutes longer than it needed to be.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – I thought he was rambling and rather condescending and of the older style, but I admit personal bias here. I gave him no encouragement via head nodding or eye contact!

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Good question. My husband and I were travelling and spent about an hour analysing it as we drove on, but were really unable to come up with a succinct summary. It was based on 1 Corinthians 2:2 and the power of the cross. He exhorted us all to be "in the cross" in 2002. I wanted to ask what that meant for me in practice. It sounded very spiritual, but I was hankering for a 10-minute, well-crafted sermon that ended with a chunk of practical application.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The commitment and sincerity of the people, even if they were a bit superior.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Long singing sessions with acoustics which reduced me to being a spectator rather than a participator (and I like to sing).

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people recognised us. One was an ex-student and one an old acquaintance from 30+ years ago, both from our Baptist era. They spoke to us and made us welcome.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was coffee, tea, Milo in china cups. Also the young people had made very yummy muffins for morning tea as a fundraiser. We could smell these cooking on arrival. Would have been good to have had them then (10.00am) as it was 12 before the service ended. I often think it would be great to take my coffee into church with me. Have done so in contemporary informal services.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – I would not be at home there... I feel I need somewhere more inclusive, especially of women's ministry, and a bit more formal (e.g. order of service, lectionary).

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not particularly. Kind of felt a bit like an obligatory club we had to go to while we were away. A bit like Rotary, or whatever.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Meeting the two people we knew, especially the young woman we hadn't seen for about 10 years.
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