|858: Glory House, Plaistow, East London, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Mark Wuntoo.
The church: Glory House, Plaistow, East London, England.
Denomination: Independent charismatic.
The building: Very large square hall (without pillars), situated behind an old church which is now converted to church offices and a bookshop. The worship area felt like a converted factory, but may be a simple purpose-built space, with carpet, drapes, flags and flowers. The entrance is hidden from the main road and is rather unattractive.
The church: Almost exclusively black, probably of West African background, possibly mainly Nigerian. Almost all were under 50 years old. The church website advertises that the congregation is a "true reflection of the cosmopolitan composition of London", but this is far from the truth on this one showing. In the first service, I could see two white people and in the second, three white people and a woman from the Indian subcontinent. The church broadcasts on Sky and in Nigeria.
The neighbourhood: The church is in a small side street off a very busy main road, near to council housing, but in an area of small high street shops.
The cast: Rev. Dr Albert Odulele (preacher and leader) and his brother Pastor Vincent Odulele.
What was the name of the service?
First Sunday Service (a Second Sunday Service followed immediately after this one).
How full was the building?
Almost full, with about 500 people. The second service was bulging at the seams with 700 people. We were helped to see the leader through video projection.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Just about – a smile at the door. However, a number of people were friendly within the service, particularly when we all were told to greet our neighbours. Also, the minister invited newcomers to go to the front to shake his hand.
Was your pew comfortable?
Very. It had a padded back and seat.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A quiet buzz of voices, except for the annoying fiddling of the musicians.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, Glory House! It's a wonderful day. God has been good to us."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. People were expected to bring their own Bibles. Songs were projected on two large plasma screens. There were no notice sheets or information booklets.
What musical instruments were played?
Electronic piano, keyboard, bass guitar, electric guitar and drums.
Did anything distract you?
There was little time to be distracted, because I had to tune in to the African voice. I was very disturbed by the content of the sermon.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Exuberant, loud, repetitive and interspersed with shouts, but with surprisingly little hand-raising. There were some short bursts of tongues-speaking – or was it Yoruba or Ibo?
Exactly how long was the sermon?
The actual sermon was 19 minutes, but followed a sort of introduction of 13 minutes. This was followed by a 10 minute appeal to those with "deep-seated turmoil" (12 responded) and five minute prayer. A total of 47 minutes, which went by quite quickly. The minister was assisted in the latter section by his brother.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 His introduction was by way of telling us that he felt God had today placed on him a mantle of prophecy and that God had touched his tongue with coals of fire in this "season of righteousness". Rev Odulele began his remarks with "I believe in a God of opportunities – will you give him a hand?" He then encouraged people to see God moving in their lives, thank him for his goodness and respond to him with praise in shouting, hand-clapping and cheering... and also by living righteously.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
This was one of the most clear sermons I have heard on wealth provision as a consequence of living a holy life to God. Irrespective of what we are or what we wear, we belong to God and we are called to be righteous. "I command bank accounts to go from red to black for those who are righteous. The days of economic struggle are over for you, the righteous. Ask God for a multiplication of resources to be used for the glory of God. I guarantee for the committed to God there will be a transfer of wealth." This was backed up by "an authenticated miracle" in Nairobi, where it was claimed that a woman had woken up in the night to find her bedroom floor covered in £50 notes (which she took to her church because she did not recognise what they were). Richard Branson has amassed much wealth. We can do the same with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The people were obviously very happy in their faith and keen to express their devotion to God. The singing was moving and emotional.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The pastor told us he had received a complaint from the neighbours about the bad parking of cars and this made me think about what may have been happening in church: sometimes I felt that many of the people were having a good time but with no regard for the world around them. There was no mention of any church outreach and there were no intercessions offered for others. It was all rather self-centred.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We didn't hang around – we were told to go quickly so that the next congregation could come in. Neither did people hang around outside in the road.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 Theologically and socially it is far from where I am.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, as far as it went.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Singing a four-line chorus (with three identical lines) nine times. This meant that we told God we were grateful for his love for us 27 times. Maybe that's a lesson for other churches? Or maybe God hears us the first time.