|652: New Wine Youth, Royal Bath & West Showground, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Hedgehog.
The church: New Wine Youth, Royal Bath and West Showground, England.
Denomination: All denominations welcome, but mostly Anglican.
The building: The building is used for agricultural shows most of the year, and so has a smell of animals about it. There is nothing inside that would suggest to an onlooker that it was being used as a Christian meeting.
The church: New Wine is a week-long summer Christian festival of prayer, speakers, charismatic worship and evening activities. This service is the final youth meeting of the week and is open to 14-19 year olds.
The neighbourhood: The surrounding area of the youth building consists of venues, marquees, food stalls and meeting areas for other age groups. Further out there are the many tents of the campers and outsides the boundaries of New Wine, a peaceful and beautiful countryside.
The cast: Ali Campbell, from St Paul's, Ealing, who was heading the whole youth sector of the week, gave the talk, and the worship was introduced by Scott Andrews, his partner in crime. Leading worship was Greg Farmer, also of St Paul's, Ealing.
What was the name of the service?
"Wider." The idea seems to be that the morning meetings go "deeper" into small sections of scripture, while the evening meetings explore "wider" topics.
How full was the building?
Pretty full with youth of all sorts. Although not jam-packed, there wasn't a huge amount of space.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Only some people I had already met the day before there was no one there officially to welcome people. To be fair, there was a (very brief) personal welcome at the first meeting of the week. One of the few problems of New Wine is that it is a bit cliquey, with many people sticking to talking only to those of their own church, and it's not always easy to make friends. But there were still many people I met through the week and it ended up not being a problem, really.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was the floor and it felt like a floor. Not enormously comfortable (cushions would have been appreciated), but it didn't get in the way of praising God, and a much longer part of the meeting was spent standing than sitting anyway.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quite a degree of anticipation of what seems to be the best meeting of the week. Lots of loud chatting which quietened down as the meeting began.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Hello." (pause) "Hello." (pause) "Hello!" (here the loud chatting finally quietened down). "It's the last night."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None were provided, but the great majority of people had brought a Bible and many were making notes on the talk.
What musical instruments were played?
Lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar; keyboards, percussion, drums.
Did anything distract you?
Not really: it was focused on God, a remarkable achievement with youth. Someone nearly fell onto me when overcome by the Holy Spirit, though to complain about that would be insensitive.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fantastic modern guitar-led worship songs, sometimes verging on rock, with the Holy Spirit deep into them. The whole room got into them and bounced, which was great.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
18 minutes, 15 seconds. Most of the talks during the week were longer, but Ali Campbell said he was going to be brief so we could worship for as long as possible.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 stirring stuff. Not the best talk of the week, but moving, giving a sense of purpose.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
God can change what you think he can never change. What we do does change things, leaving an "echo in eternity". We should live significant lives. With God, anything is possible.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The brilliant worship, with the whole room bouncing to renditions of a selection of well known songs with testimonies sandwiched into the quiet bits.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Not getting any of the banana sweets chucked into the gathering! None were thrown in our direction!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It being the last night, I was welcomed to hang around with some people I did know and some I didn't which ended up being very nice indeed.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Coffee? You've got to be joking. You wouldn't expect coffee at an event like this. Of course there are food and drink stalls outside but at the same price as you might find at a café rather than a church.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 it's difficult to answer this question as New Wine is not a regular church and would surely be very different if it was. Also, the fantastic worship might seem less special if it happened every Sunday. As my yearly Christian festival, however, it gets a 9 I will definitely keep coming back.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Definitely. The worship was exhilarating and I felt on top of the world.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Bouncing high and proud to the fantastic music.