|714: Kingston Uniting, Kingston, South Australia|
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Mystery Worshipper: Mag(dalena).
The church: Kingston Uniting Church, Kingston, South Australia.
Denomination: Uniting Church in Australia.
The building: Traditional Methodist chapel style with a wooden ceiling. Well kept, set in spacious grounds. There was a large cross at the front with a communion table, a banner, some stained glass windows and two ceiling fans a long way up, which helped a little.
The church: No paid minister at present. As in a number of country towns in South Australia, the three churches in the area are served by a ministry team of local lay people, with a paid ministry team assistant. A lay person led the communion service on the day.
The neighbourhood: This is in a tourist area of the south-east of South Australia, with great beach and fishing (and crayfish) but still seems unspoilt.
The cast: We were never told! The news sheet gave details of personnel for the next week, but by peering at name badges after the service we deduced that the main leader and speaker was Mary Oakley. Not sure about the reader and song leader.
What was the name of the service?
Worship (this was the only service for the day).
How full was the building?
Surprisingly full for school holidays and a hot summer day (37 degrees or more). Not many spare spaces.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A handshake at the front door. We were fairly early and the others who came into the pew were late, so no communication there.
Was your pew comfortable?
Traditional pews. They were all cushioned, so there was no sticking to the melting varnish as I have had in other old country churches.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Just comfortable. Not threatening silence nor noisy distraction.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
Not quite sure. Someone introduced some songs and welcomed someone who had returned and "all the visitors". Later there was a call to worship.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The songs were on the overhead projector and were a mixture of sources both contemporary and traditional. One came from the Australian Hymn Book. There were no pew Bibles but readings were from the New International Version (NIV), I think.
What musical instruments were played?
The music was on the piano, but there was a drum kit and an electronic organ in the church, so I think during term time there is probably a band.
Did anything distract you?
I was nicely distracted by a little boy next to me reading a book and having a snack. He seemed very comfortable. One toddler kept escaping down the front and seemed to distract the "minister" more than I am used to. I was very taken with (hence distracted by!) a hand painted frieze of vine leaves and grapes all around the wall. The south-east region of South Australia is a grape-growing area. The church were to have a stall at the upcoing Cape Jaffa Seafood and Wine Festival.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Middle of the road cheerful and lively, but not clappy. I did have trouble with a contemporary song I am familiar with played at a woefully slow speed. Otherwise, the elderly lady playing the piano did a great job.There were a number of families and children and they all seemed happy with it.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes precisely. It was read (well).
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 She spoke well, but seemed a bit distant. Well prepared.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The baptims of Jesus. She spoke about her own baptism 20 years ago and what it meant to her. That was fine, but she majored on baptism being about repentance. This seemed a little odd for a denomination that baptizes babies. I wanted to hear about God's grace being given as well.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sense of community which came from peripheral things rather than the service itself.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I found the leader's manner a little condescending in the kids' section. I also noted the lack of inclusive language (NIV Bible) and other stuff. I was surprised when I realised that I have got used to not attaching gender specific pronouns to God and so it jars to hear it. God was very much Father and male. The Holy Spirit was also definitely male.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We didn't have to do that. The people in front turned round to inform us there was coffee in the hall. We'd thought there would be, but nothing had been said in the service. We started chatting to them about the frieze and much later discovered mutual acquaintances and would have been invited to lunch if they hadn't been otherwise engaged. It made us feel warmly welcome.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
We were late getting to it (explanation below) but it was pretty good and there were good, home-cooked yummies to eat, although a bit hard to get to as we were engrossed in conversation. Good!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 I have lived in a small country town. For a small country town, this church looked good.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. Reminded me of the connectedness of the kingdom of God.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I'm still talking about it! On commenting about the frieze I was introduced to its artist and then taken to see the Sunday School rooms (former manse next to the church.) Each room had a wonderful mural depicting some aspect of God and creation. It had been a community effort – wondrous – and has really had an impact on work with children and youth.