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  1238: Faith Christian Centre, Newport, Wales

Faith Christian Centre, Newport, Wales

Mystery Worshipper: Boyrevel.
The church: Faith Christian Centre, Newport, Wales.
Denomination: Non-Denominational.
The building: The church meets in the upstairs foyer at the Holiday Inn Express hotel, a respectable-looking modern structure located beside a business park and near to Tredegar House, a 17th century country house.
The church: They belong to Churches Together in Newport and sponsor youth groups, men's and ladies' groups, and several outreaches.
The neighbourhood: Newport is in South Wales, at the mouth of the River Usk. In the 19th century it was the scene of the Chartist riots (the Chartist movement demanded greater political rights for the working class). Newport Castle, dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, has been restored as a tourist attraction. The Transporter Bridge, a suspension bridge dating from 1902, spans the River Usk. Declared unsafe in 1985 and marked for demolition, the bridge was instead restored and is still in full use. Newport seems to be a thriving city. When I visited there were a lot of roadworks being carried out to the A48 dual carriageway that the hotel is on, and the industrial parks and business parks are still being expanded.
The cast: The Rev. Michael Taplin, pastor, presided. The preacher was Steve Toliver.
The date & time: 9 April 2006, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Sunday Worship.

How full was the building?
Bursting at the seams. There were 65 seats, and at the beginning of the service only three were empty. Within 20 minutes about a half dozen more people turned up, so extra seats had to be laid out.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Several people gave me a warm handshake and a hello.

Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfortable – large blue seats with arm rests, part of the hotel's conference furniture. The most comfortable church seat I have ever sat in!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was quite busy. Lots of people were chatting, but quietly, and you could hear people in the restaurant downstairs finishing their breakfasts! There was also a strong aroma of freshly made toast, which smelt very appetising.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. Good morning, everybody. I just want to give a very special welcome to all of our very special visitors here."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
There were no hymn books or sheets. All the words to the songs were displayed on a video projection screen at the front of the meeting. Most people brought their own Bibles. The preacher spoke from the Authorised Version (King James).

What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, plus a single bongo drum.

Did anything distract you?
There was a constant fragrance of the fresh toast wafting up from downstairs.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship style was quite relaxed. The service opened with about 30 minutes of singing – mostly modern songs, with the exception of "Amazing Grace". It wasn't happy clappy, thank goodness, but rather more like modern worship. After the sermon we sang for about another 20 minutes. Most of the songs I didn't know, but they were sung in a genuinely worshipful style.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
40 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Steve Toliver didn't look at his notes once, yet he was able to deliver his message clearly. He quoted from the Bible verbatim without reference to printed material.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
His text was Ephesians 6:10 – "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." We are the temple of God and should carry light with us wherever we go.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
A woman named Caroline Owens sang a song called "Facedown" by Matt Redman. She sang it very well.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The meeting started seven minutes late, and there were still people arriving 20 minutes after the advertised time. The air conditioning unit blew a steady stream of cold air in my face whenever I stood. At the end, we were encouraged to hold hands for what was probably about six minutes – which is a considerable time when you don't even know the person whose hand you are holding.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A couple of people said hello, but mostly it was polite smiles being exchanged.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
They certainly know how to set out refreshments. There was a good brand of tea, a store brand of coffee that was a good imitation of a well known national brand, and plenty of biscuits – mostly chocolate chip cookies, those delicious sweet oat biscuits known as Abbey Crunch, and chocolate digestives. All were free of charge, although candy for purchase was available for the children.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I once heard that if you become a Christian you'd better like singing. Well, judging from the amount of singing we did, there's no doubt that I was among Christians!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. There was a really nice atmosphere within the meeting. The message to be strong in the Lord was a simple, yet relevant message.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Holding hands with complete strangers in a hotel for six minutes. Felt like an eternity.
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