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778: Teignmouth Methodist, Teignmouth, Devon, England
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Teignmouth Methodist, Teignmouth, Devon, England
Mystery Worshipper: Joe Nah.
The church: Teignmouth Methodist,
Denomination: Methodist.
The building: This is a Victorian building which has been recently refurbished to remove some of the effects of poorly implemented 1960s "modernisation". The cross at the end of the church is particularly eye-catching and held my gaze for much of the service. The colours around it were meant to echo the hill and sky at Calvary, but they could just have easily been the sand and sea outside. We could almost have been worshipping on the beach and, given the regular very vocal interruptions from the local seabird community, I half expected a seagull to land on it.
The neighbourhood: The church is located in the commercial centre of this seaside resort town.
The cast: Rev. Geoffrey Todd, a retired minister who is normally a member of the congregation, was introduced by the elder who opened the service.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion.

How full was the building?
There were about 80 people present, most over 50 years old. Folk were spread about making the church look quite full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I received a very warm welcome from several people. It would be impossible to get into this church without being welcomed.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. There was plenty of leg room and ample padding.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was lots of friendly chatter. People were walking around talking to friends and visitors; the organist started to play about 10 minutes before the service began, but people carried on moving about. The small number of children present were whisked away to kids' church and returned just before communion.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning everyone. A very warm welcome. The sun is shining with the promise of a bright day."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymns and Praise, the Good News Bible and Methodist Worship.

What musical instruments were played?
Only an organ, but there was plenty of room up front for a few more instruments.

Did anything distract you?
The local seagulls added to the worship with their own unique songs of praise. In addition, the doors were open and it was possible to hear the conversations of passers-by.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was fairly stiff-upper-lip. After the warm welcome I had expected equal warmth to be displayed in the singing. Actually, it was pretty dire and I could not understand how 80 people could make so little noise! Were they afraid to raise the roof in case the seagulls came in? Perhaps they were too busy listening to the seagulls and the passers-by to sing. I have been in a congregation of 12 people where the worship was louder and more inspired. Perhaps it was the accoustics in the building, but it left me with a feeling of incompleteness, especially given all the positive aspects of my visit to this church.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
22 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – The preacher was very good and his message was straight from the heart.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Why do we come to church? We all know the experience of not getting anything out of worship and of participating in rituals without any sense of response. It is no surprise that we lose our sense of awe and wonder when we come to church with this mindset. When we stop journeying then our spiritual life becomes barren. We need to be where Jesus is, where the Holy Spirit is. This is the pilgrim's way.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The friendly atmosphere. This is one of the friendliest churches I have visited.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
If I had to pick something, it would be the singing. However, the friendliness of the people and the excellent message compensated.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people spoke to me and a kind lady went and got me a cup of coffee.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Fair trade coffee and biscuits were served from a trolley at the front of the church. Most people stayed.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – As I have children I would first investigate other churches with a younger age profile and activities for both children and teenagers.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. I am not a frequent visitor to Methodist churches but felt very much at home in this one.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The warm and friendly welcome I received.
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