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957: Croydon Jubilee Church, Croydon, Surrey, England
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Croydon Jubilee, Croydon, London, England
Mystery Worshipper: Purple Sparkler.
The church: Croydon Jubilee Church, Croydon, London.
Denomination: The church is a member of the Evangelical Alliance and New Frontiers International.
The building: The church meets in the school hall at Gilbert Scott School, an ordinary-looking block-type primary school dating from the 1960s. There were a few banners with messages about God and Jesus hung on the walls; these were removed at the end of the service.
The church: People of a range of different ages -- a few teenagers, some young families and other young adults, and plenty of middle-aged people. As an Anglican, I was surprised at the paucity of little old ladies.
The neighbourhood: Croydon is a modern suburbs, but is close to a rather run-down and rough estate, where the church does a lot of youth outreach work. They see this as very much a part of their area and mission.
The cast: The preacher was Jim Baldwin. The band led the worship part of the service, and various people, including a youth worker named Jaz, led the prayers.
What was the name of the service?
Morning Worship.

How full was the building?
It got more full as the service progressed, with the arrival of a group of young people from the estate. By the end the hall was about two-thirds full, though I gather there are usually a lot more people. It certainly felt crowded to me.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. Three church members greeted me, and I was given a newcomer's pack (they have separate ones for Christians and non-Christians). I was asked if I was joining or just visiting. At the end of the service plenty of people said hello. I certainly felt welcome!

Was your pew comfortable?
We sat in rows of moulded plastic seats which were absolutely fine comfort-wise, although it did feel as though I was at a school assembly.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Chatty. There was some scurrying about getting things ready, and the worship band were rehearsing, but generally people milled about talking to one another (and to me).

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Hello everyone" from the leader of the worship band, who then led us in prayer.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
There were no hymn books, as the words were projected up on a screen at the side of the stage. During the sermon, people referred to their own copies of the Bible.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano, guitar and drums. There were also two vocalists.

Did anything distract you?
There were a few small children running about, but I found the service so engrossing that the things that might distract me elsewhere went unnoticed.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The songs, none of which I was familiar with, were lively and were sung with great and infectious enthusiasm, and I found I was singing as loudly as anyone else. There was no clapping, although some people did have their hands lifted up.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
30 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – It was more like a chat about the Bible passage being discussed than preaching. As the sermons are, I gather, recorded, the preacher had a tendency to include descriptions of what was going on in the room for purposes of the tape.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was called "Getting it Spectacularly Wrong." The preacher talked about Matthew 23:1-32 and what it had to tell us about how not to be a church. For example, he said that, as an elder, he would rather people came to him with problems or questions because they had a relationship with him than because of his position in the church. He also talked about how important it was to communicate God's message in a way that people would clearly understand.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The prayers were really something. Rather than one person interceding (which I find very hard to concentrate on), we were told what to pray about and then given time to pray in our own way, and in our own words. I felt like some kind of block had been lifted, and prayer came much more easily to me than it normally does. I felt like what I was saying had meaning, and that I really was in God's presence and being heard.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I enjoyed the whole service, but they didn't have communion, which on reflection I really missed. I also thought the three year old giving me the evils from the chair in front was a little off-putting.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I wasn't able to -- people came right up and said hello. Though I was lucky in that I had gone with a friend -- people coming to talk to her talked to me -- I got the impression that I would have been just as welcome had I come on my own.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Lovely -- all fair trade tea and coffee, fresh and hot, served in styrofoam cups. The biscuits (shortbread) were good too.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – If they had communion as well, I'd trudge over there from North London every week, and wouldn't mind having to get up earlier to do so.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Very much so -- it left me feeling energised in a way I haven't felt in a long time.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Probably how good it felt to pray there. I really felt like I was communicating with God.
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