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759: Bournemouth Community Church, Bournemouth, England
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Winton Evangelical, Bournemouth, England
Mystery Worshipper: Aileen.
The church: Bournemouth Community Church, Bournemouth, England.
Denomination: Evangelical Alliance.
The building: A modern, brick-built boys' school building, with well-ordered gardens and amazingly spotless and neat surroundings. The service was held in the gym, a massive hall with yellow brick walls and long green curtains hanging over one wall and behind the stage to assist with the accoustics. There were metal girders across the ceiling and huge nets hanging down one side. Two basketball goals were waiting to be lobbed at, and the doors were decorated with silver helium-filled balloons.
The church: It's socially diverse, has every age group from babies in buggies to elderly and has grown so much numerically that they have had to move into the gym because their old church building is too small. The minister has been at the church for 25 years and has built up a leadership team of about a dozen people.
The neighbourhood: It seemed very neat and suburban, but I'm told it's not the most classy part of Bournemouth. It's a long way from the beautiful sandy beaches.
The cast: Andrew Whitman (oversight for cell development, evangelism and training) MCd; Mike Frisby preached; and David Craig (lead elder) spoke because the church were celebrating the 25th anniversary of the arrival of him and his wife Maureen. Other leaders and members of the congregation participated and there were video messages from Lyndon Bowring and other friends.
What was the name of the service?
Morning Celebration.

How full was the building?
Very, very full. At least 450 people. We were contained within the yellow lines on the floor, presumably for health and safety.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Oh yes. A smiley team of welcomers, including one in a wheelchair, spread out from outside the door, all with "Welcome Team" badges, to smile and guide us right down the corridors, round the corners, into the gym, where we were given a leaflet and coaxed into a seat.

Was your pew comfortable?
Pale blue folding chairs. The best thing about them was that they were not hooked together, so there was reasonable space between us. There were also some plastic garden chairs so that people who needed more support, or were elderly or stiff, could be comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Noisy, busy, excited, bustling. And there was a live video of the front door because they were having a surprise celebration of David and Maureen Craig's 25 years there, and wanted the congregation to see them arrive. The leadership team were done up in mock kilts (mini-skirts on the women), XXL white t-shirts and tartan sashes, with bits of fur for sporrans, so there was a lot of laughing and teasing going on.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Let's stand and worship the Lord together: 'To God be the glory'."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Some of the congregation had their own Bibles. The preacher used "The Message" version.

What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, guitar, trumpet, bright yellow drum set.

Did anything distract you?
1. Every so often, one of the balloons exploded. 2. The leadership team in their "Scots" outfits – and during the service they did a Scots dance! And the strange thing was that it felt quite natural in the context of the service. It was fun. 3. The parents of small children were encouraged to let their children have a "scream break" if they needed it, and take them to "rush up and down the corridors", before it was time for the children's groups. The phrases kept recurring in my brain.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Enthusiastic. Good band and lead singers. The congregation joined in vocally and physically, some waving hands in the air, some clapping at times, all singing strongly. There was an OHP with PowerPoint-projected words on a coloured background. The songs were mainly modern and were played with a distinctive cheerful rhythm.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
14 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The preacher was primarily addressing David and Maureen, rather as if it was an ordination or induction. He did carry on to address the rest of us.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Philemon verse 7: "Your love has given me deep joy and encouragement, because you, David and Maureen, have refreshed the saints' hearts." A good pastor has integrity and passion for all God's people. There is deep pain and unspeakable joy in working with and for Jesus. Working as a Christian is like sowing seed and reaping the harvest: don't be weary, don't give up; it's like a woman in childbirth being told, "push, push" when she might just wish never to have a baby. But in the end, when she looks at the baby, she's full of joy. Whatever we sow will bring a harvest. God guarantees that.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The obvious love shown to and by David and Maureen Craig and their church community and God. The whole service was like a reflection of Jesus.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was a bit of fuzziness in the sound system at times, maybe because there was so much electronic equipment to organize.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were all immediately directed to the school assembly hall where a big lunch was laid out. Visitors were asked to go first, so we were fed as a priority. Everywhere we went, there was someone who talked to us and asked us where we were from.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Sandwiches, salad, fingerfood, cakes, pavlovas, soft drinks, coffee and tea, all with paper plates, blue napkins, plastic cutlery and cups. Mmmm...

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – It seems so full of life. The notice sheet tells about so much going on all the time. I like the idea of a team ministry.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. There was such a crowd of people worshipping God. My own church is so much smaller that it is refreshing to be with lots of Christians – and the church seems to be so involved in life, not just Sunday.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The tears shed by David Craig. His joy and his humility. He said, "We are pretty ordinary clay," but one of the congregation had a picture of a beautiful, golden, precious pot, transformed.
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