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703: Northlake Christian Church, Bothell, Washington, USA
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Northlake Christian Church
Mystery Worshipper: Geezer in tennis shoes.
The church: Northlake Christian Church, Bothell, Washington, USA.
Denomination: Independant Community Church.
The building: The building is mostly one-story, contemporary style, a roomy building with a large, vaulted sanctuary and a large stage. Everything is well-lit and clean. The rest rooms were especially pleasant.
The church: I believe that Northlake was a plant by Overlake Christian Church of Redmond, the largest church in the state.
The neighbourhood: Northlake is located across the street from Floral Hills cemetery in suburban south Snohomish county. There is a mixture of beautiful new homes and 1960s tracts in the area. The local population is mostly white with some Asian immigrants, but the congregation here was almost entirely white.
The cast: Pastor Cary Peterson gave the message, and the worship was directed by the music director whose name went by so quickly I missed it.
What was the name of the service?
Palm Sunday 9:00am service

How full was the building?
The sanctuary was approximately half full. I would estimate 350 attended this first of two morning services.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. There was a man in the parking lot who ran out with an umbrella to protect me from the rain. There were several greeters at the door to shake my hand. And I was approached by a lady after I had found a seat, who appeared to be a roving greeter.

Was your pew comfortable?
Northlake is using the same upholstered chairs that so many churches are using. I guess that's because they can be moved and rearranged so easily. They were comfortable and a good looking shade of green.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very casual, very busy, and lots of people milling around, chatting, visiting one another, etc.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. Uh, I have to leave early so we can spend a little time in worship. And I want to talk about worship."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
There were no hymnals and no pew Bibles. The reading was from the New International Version. Everyone had brought their own Bibles.

What musical instruments were played?
Acoustic 12-string guitar, electric (Stratocaster) guitar, electric bass, grand piano, flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, and along with a full set of drums there was a percussionist with bongo drums, cowbell, maracas, cabasa, tamborine, etc. There was also a well-rehearsed choir of about 35 members. Very good sound when they were all going strong!

Did anything distract you?
Occasionally someone would begin quoting scripture in a loud voice. It wasn't always the same person. Just every now and then, like right in the middle of the pastor's thoughts, someone would interrupt with scripture. It seemed to be completely unrelated to the message, so I don't think this was planned or rehearsed. It just seemed odd to me that right out of the blue people would feel free to impose their own impulses on the rest of us.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I think the goal was happy-clappy, but the singing wasn't always loud and the clapping was sporadic. About a quarter of the congregation were raising their hands at any one time, and just about everybody raised their hands at one time or another. The band was tight and the choir was "into it". But the enthusiasm in the pews, uh, chairs, wasn't always as high as it was with the choir and band.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Almost exactly 30 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Pastor Cary Peterson was very casual, in jeans and open-neck, long-sleeved sports shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His manner was as casual as his dress. He delivered the sermon sitting on a stool with a music stand holding his notes. He was matter-of-fact and his voice was conversational in tone and he never raised it. It was more like he was having a conversation over coffee, not preaching but teaching.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The text was Romans 11:33-36. The title was "That's Worship". Boiled down to its essence, his point was that worship springs from our daily experiences and is genuine when heartfelt. He asked, "Why can't worship be like a Mariner's game?" (He is a fan of professional baseball.) Standing up and lifting someone up for what they have done and giving them the credit is worship. He used many texts to illustrate how God works and what he does, and why we worship Him.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Occasionally the choir, the band and the congregation all came together with the visuals (delivered by PowerPoint) to generate a genuine feeling of worship that ended with the taking of communion.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Being surrounded by strangers and still being alone.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People sailed by, sometimes smiling at me and saying "Hi" but nobody ever stopped for conversation or to see if I had questions. People were pleasant but distant. I even wandered the halls and looked at some bulletin boards trying my best to look lost.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
They have an espresso coffee bar, but it was very busy and I didn't get close. There was a notice that visitors could have a free latte, but I didn't feel comfortable standing in line and waiting alone in the crowd to get served.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I am fairly outgoing and not afraid to meet people. So I think I could make friends here and be happy at this church. But a timid visitor would not feel drawn in here. Too bad.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes and I very much appreciated the pastor's message about worship.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The music.
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