|681: St Luke's, Brighton, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Tintin.
The church: St Luke's, Brighton, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: I have no idea when it comes to architecture, but the church is of red brick and was built around 1870. The inside is modern, with all the pews removed and the walls painted in pastel shades of yellow and turquoise. The worship space has been turned round by 90 degrees so that it is facing to the right, making the seating area wide and shallow, rather than long and narrow.
The church: There seems to be a good mix of ages, with no age group dominating.
The neighbourhood: Across the road are a few 1960s tower blocks. On the other side of the church are streets of white Victorian terraced houses.
The cast: The service was lead by Davina Irwin-Clark, wife of the vicar and preacher, Rev. Peter Irwin-Clark. This was their penultimate Sunday before moving on to pastures new. The worship was led by Tim Spanner.
What was the name of the service?
Sunday morning service.
How full was the building?
I think there were about 100 people there, which meant that half the chairs were taken.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
One man said "Greetings" as we walked in. Nothing was handed out which means you could go in without any interaction with anyone. I like to have something given to me just to ensure I get some sort of welcome.
Was your pew comfortable?
They were padded chairs in a choice of colours (blue, green and purple) which were very comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Relaxed and informal. People were chatting and wandering around. The worship group were playing and encouraged everyone to stand and join in the last song before the service.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our morning service."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Song words were projected onto an OHP screen. NIV Bibles and a card with a few different confessions and creeds were on the back of the chairs.
What musical instruments were played?
Just a single guitar, with a couple of backing singers. The guitarist, Tim Spanner, who led the worship, was obviously very talented so it didn't seen too bare to just have a guitar. I later found out from my friends that he has produced his own album of self-penned songs.
Did anything distract you?
I have a habit of trying to spot likenesses in people. The worship leader was easy his spiky hair and trendy shirt was very like fellow Sussex musician Martin Smith, lead singer of Delirious. The vicar was more of a distracting challenge. I finally settled on a cross between Giles Brandreth and Hugh Grant.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Relaxed and informal with mostly modern choruses. They were mainly slow, meditative songs, rather than happy clappy, but practically everyone did the actions to "Higher, higher, lift up Jesus higher". Some of the songs were unknown to me, and this wasn't helped when the leader occasionally made up his own words and embellished the tune.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 the sermon was very good and clear. Instead of using notes, our preacher read the sermon from the screen of an IMAC laptop computer that he propped up on the lectern. I've seen laptops used for PowerPoint sermons before, but not just for the preacher's benefit. The paperless office has not materialised, but perhaps we are heading towards a paperless pulpit.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Giving. I always feel slightly uncomfortable about sermons on giving coinciding with gift days, but what he said was spot on. His main text was 2 Corinthians 8, backed by other references, and the main thrust was that giving wasn't compulsory, but a fantastic opportunity to show our thankfulness to God.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The church was a cross between my first church (small, charismatic) and my present church (large, conservative evangelical), taking the best of both. The sense of being part of a smaller family would have been nice, if we had been part of it.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
This was my first Mystery Worshipper experience, so I was feeling a bit nervous and guilty. This was compounded when, halfway through the service, I realised that I couldn't just pop the calling card into a passing plate, but had to walk out to the front to put it into the offering box on the front platform.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We went over to a corner of the church for coffee. The friend we came with introduced us to a couple of people. We finally managed to shake off our friend and tried to look lost. A woman quickly came up and asked if we were new and chatted to us for a bit.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea, coffee and squash were served with biscuits. I tried the squash, which was fine, and Mrs Tintin had some coffee. "Do I have to finish it?" was her comment, but to be fair she's not very into coffee at the moment.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 I'm used to a larger church and slightly more formal services, but the congregation seemed like a big happy family.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it was really good to get out of my usual church and see Christians from other places, worshipping in different ways.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The relaxed, informal, family feeling of the service.