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604: Dennistoun Gospel Hall, Glasgow, Scotland
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Dennistoun Gospel Hall, Glasgow.
Mystery Worshipper: George.
The church: Dennistoun Gospel Hall, Glasgow, Scotland.
Denomination: Brethren? There was no indication at all.
The building: This modern brick building has a car park next to it and a high fence all around it. The interior of the main hall is very plain, with a red carpet and a wooden pulpit and communion table at the front. There are Bible verses in large print at either end of the hall.
The church: The majority of the congregation were older, with very few young faces. They have a communion service every Sunday morning with a prayer meeting and a witnessing service every Sunday evening.
The neighbourhood: Dennistoun is in the inner east end of Glasgow, a less well off area with a high population of students. There is a high concentration of church congregations nearby with two Presbyterian churches, an Episcopalian congregation, and a Baptist church within two minutes walk.
The cast: No names were given. The service leaders were often referred to as brother, and the congregation as brethren and sisters.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion.

How full was the building?
Practically empty – there were about 20 people, slightly more women than men, occupying just short of 300 seats.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was warmly welcomed at the door by the two gentlemen who went on to lead the service. I was asked first if I was a born again Christian, and then about my baptism and church background. I was given a small hymnbook and asked to sit at the back so I could "see what goes on".

Was your pew comfortable?
There were comfortable padded plastic chairs connected in rows with metal frames. Sitting at the end of the back row when I leant back the chair started to bend towards the wall – meaning I couldn't lean back too hard – a novel way of stopping slouching in church.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I seemed to be the last person to arrive, five minutes before the service began. The congregation were in their seats, silent. Some heads were bowed.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Shall we begin this morning's service with Hymn 185." The words of the hymn, which was "O God of matchless Grace", were read out in full before singing commenced.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Everyone had their own Bible with them; I didn't manage to work out which was the accepted version in the church. The Believers' Hymn Book was sung from.

What musical instruments were played?
All singing was unaccompanied, although there was a small organ at the front of the church.

Did anything distract you?
Heavy rain, traffic passing by and rumbling noises from the central heating all posed a distraction, but nothing was as distracting as the variety of hats the ladies were wearing.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very stiff-upper-lip for lowland Scotland. All hymns were sung standing up, facing forward, and the hymns lyrics were always read through by the person introducing them before they were sung.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
11 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The preacher stood next to his seat in the congregation instead of getting up on the platform, and stared in my direction in the far corner for the entire sermon.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon linked the Gospel reading from Mark 15 to Psalm 22, going into graphic detail of Jesus' crucifixion from the Psalm and reminding the congregation of his unique purpose in taking away sin.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The way that members of the congregation ran the whole service was quite special. Prayers were offered, hymns announced, the communion vessels handled and the Bible readings were given by different people. The singing was superb for such a small group as well – they could make a few bob on Argyle Street on a Saturday afternoon.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Between every service item there was an excruciatingly long silence, reflection time, dictated by the person introducing the next item. When communion was served I was not included and in the same manner I was not included in the offering.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
At the end of the service a number of the congregation noticed an unfamiliar face, said hi and shook my hand. On the way out of the church building I bumped into one of the welcomers who hoped that I hadn't found the service too peculiar, and who told me to look in Acts 2 and 28 for the authority for what they do in their services.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There were no refreshments after the service.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – While I enjoyed the different style of worship, I have no ambitions of wearing a suit to church every week.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Indifferent. It felt more like they were telling me I wasn't trusted by them to be a Christian yet.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
How friendly the people in the church were in spite of their strict beliefs.
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