|828: Reformierte Kirche, Ronsdorf, Wuppertal, Germany|
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Mystery Worshipper: Herminator.
The church: Reformierte Kirche, Ronsdorf, Wuppertal, Germany.
The building: The curch was built in 1858 and it has room for 600 people. It was built in a historicist style with a main accent on preaching. The apse is closed off by a wall up to the gallery, and in the middle of this wall is the old pulpit. Otherwise there are no decorations, no cross, no pictures – nothing! The new pulpit used today is in the middle of the first two pews.
The church: This suburb of Wuppertal was founded in the 18th century by a group of reformed Christians who left the Lutheran church in Elberfeld (now also a part of Wuppertal). Some of the families who make up the congregation can trace themselves back to this time.
The cast: Pastor Jochen Denker, and several presbyters.
What was the name of the service?
Sunday morning service, with the introduction of the new vicar.
How full was the building?
There were about 120 people, including children, so not counting the gallery the church was almost full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was welcomed with a friendly nod and handed a hymn book. The others in my pew nodded a welcome as they urged me to slide further in.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was quite narrow for my big butt, but it had a cushion and there was enough legroom to be comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A lot of gossiping, all in a subdued, whispery tone. I found this quite distracting, but then, there was no one I knew whom I had to welcome and tell all my news to.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"We celebrate this service in the name of God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." (In German, naturally.)
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Everybody got the Evangelisches Gesangbuch, used in most Protestant churches in Germany. In every pew there also lay the Bible in the translation by Martin Luther (revised 1984).
What musical instruments were played?
Only the organ was played.
Did anything distract you?
There was nothing to distract me, except this empty church with not even a cross anywhere! I am used to having something on which to rest my eyes while hearing the sermon. Having nothing was extremely distracting!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Exept for one modern song, the hymns were all from the 16th-18th centuries and accompanied by the organ. Here in Germany, we sit while singing. Not much movement was possible, but it seemed everyone was pretty good at singing.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Nearly 19 minutes long.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
As Christians and the church we have to be true to Christ and what others think or say must not influence us. God alone is able and has the right to judge us (1 Corinthians 4:1-5).
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
When the pastor talked about earthly affairs that separate us from one another, and one church from another, and put this in relation to only God being our judge, I was very touched. This is one of the most important themes for me: that all of us who belong to Jesus are brothers and sisters and belong together. It is lived out much too seldom!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I have to admit: putting my Mystery Worshipper calling card into the collection bag and hoping nobody would notice and ask me awkward questions was nearly hell! But then it was my first time.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After the service I was ushered to the parish hall by a very kind man, who stayed with me to talk and drink.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No coffee, no juice – just sparkling wine for everyone. It was the new vicar's introduction... happy me!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, I was glad for a church which puts so much weight on God's word, and where I am welcome. The sermon really spoke to my heart, helping me remember that only God's judgment counts.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The empty church. I very much missed our cross.