|932: Goodwill Missionary Baptist, Seattle, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Ralegh.
The church: Goodwill Missionary Baptist, Seattle, USA.
Denomination: American Baptist, member of the General Baptist Convention.
The building: Built in 1968, the building is a modern one that resembles two connected boxes. Stairs lead up to the entrance from the parking area below. They have plans to build an addition with classrooms.
The church: This church began in 1946 with 18 members, and has increased steadily ever since. It has outgrown a number of ever-larger buildings. Membership today stands at about 800 congregants, almost exclusively Afro-American.
The neighbourhood: This is a largely residential neighborhood which is described as "multicultural" on the church's website. It is located northwest of Seattle's downtown area.
The cast: Pastor Garry L. Tyson; elder Nicole L. Tyson.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
It looked almost full to me.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
My family and I were there about a half an hour early, and we received numerous welcomes. People came up and introduced themselves, made sure we were comfortable, and that we were aware of when the service was going to begin.
Was your pew comfortable?
Wooden pews, with red seat cushions, and reasonably comfortable. It was a three-hour service, so I was thankful for the cushions.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Pre-recorded gospel music was playing. People were chatting, greeting each other.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"May we have your attention please? It's time for the worship service. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
New National Baptist Hymnal. King James Bible.
What musical instruments were played?
A small combo featuring drums, guitar and electric organ.
Did anything distract you?
The ladies' hats. Mrs Ralegh and I rated each hat as it made its grand entrance. Some of them were beautiful, some were outlandish, but all were magnificent.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Happy clappy, evangelical, Pentecostal. A very talented gospel choir got the service off to a rousing and heavenly start. There was also a baptism service taking place in a room above and behind the altar. At one point the pastor and his assistant pushed the doors open to reveal a large mirror in which we could view each candidate being dunked in a sort of sunken bathtub. I had never seen anything like it
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Pastor Tyson is a charismatic speaker. He used humor, personal stories and a call and response delivery. Although at first I wasn't sure where he was going with the sermon, by the end I thought it was effective and laudable.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
"Girl, get your money straight!" Women (and men, but this sermon was directed at the women) need to establish their own financial security and respect. They should not find their sense of self-worth in their husbands or boyfriends, but rather in themselves. As you establish yourself financially and emotionally, you can give more to the church and do more good work.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The gospel choir.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Elder Nicole made a brief speech which started pleasantly enough when she talked about how the community is lucky to be among Christians, because we are constantly praying for them. But she then changed the subject to Buddhists and said there were too many of them coming into the country (Washington State has a large immigrant Asian population). This remark made me very uncomfortable.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We had to leave abruptly, as Mrs Ralegh and I had a cruise to catch and the service lasted over three hours. Thus I didn't get a chance to hang about looking lost.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I had been told that they don't have after-service coffee.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 The people were friendly, but I'm definitely not a Baptist. Also, although time seemed to fly, I'm not sure I'm up to three hours of church each Sunday.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it is good to see this many people so involved in their church. Although I suppose you could hide in the crowd, I think most of these people were pretty committed to their faith.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The baptism service as viewed through mirrors.