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||1429: Elkington Road Baptist, Burry Port, Carmarthenshire,
Mystery Worshipper: Wandering Star.
The church: Elkington Road Baptist, Burry Port, Carmarthenshire,
Denomination: Baptist, a member of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
The building: A modest building with a pebble dashed exterior and
a number of arched windows glazed in a variety of clear and obscured glass.
There is one stained glass window at the rear of the building. The interior
is surprisingly traditional, with wooden pews and slightly raised pulpit.
In the same grounds as the church is a one storey building which I would
imagine serves as a community hall.
The church: The notices mentioned a luncheon club and a mother and
The neighbourhood: Burry Port is a small south Wales coastal town,
just east of Pembrey Country Park and its magnificent eight miles of award
winning beach. We were totally seduced by the sun kissed sand and glittering
sea. In the harbour, fishing boats gently nudged pleasure craft as cyclists,
walkers, sitters and sailors enjoyed the scene. Every sense is satisfied:
butterflies dance and skylarks play, fragrant wildflowers mingle with fresh
salty air, gulls screech and chaffinches chatter. One assumes that God had
some divine purpose for allowing the West Wales rail service to run along
this bucolic paradise. Elkington Road Baptist Church is rather hidden away,
not on the main street or particularly noticeable.
The cast: Mr Robert Evans, one of the church's deacons, led the service.
The date & time: 22 April 2007, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About one-fifth full, with 30 or so people in attendance.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was met at the door by smiles, "Good morning" and a handshake
as I was given a hymn book. When I sat down in the pew, a lady sidled a
little closer and greeted me, and the lady in front of me turned around
to say, "Hello, are you visiting or have you moved here?"
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was wooden, well polished and fairly comfortable. Cushions were
available for those who wished to avoid going numb in the bum.
How would you describe the pre-service
Happy laughter from the entrance hall and quiet greetings exchanged among
those inside. The organ was played softly.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning," followed by a reading from scripture, after which
about a dozen men emerged from a door behind the pulpit.
What books did the congregation use during the
Songs of Fellowship Combined.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
I sat fairly close to the front of the church, expecting the seats around
me to fill. But by the beginning of the service there were only half a dozen
people within my eye line. As we sang the first hymn, the volume of voices
made me think there must be quite a few people behind me. This was a little
distracting as I wanted to find out how many there were without turning
around! Had to take a sneaky look when I sat down.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Reserved but enthusiastic. The singing evidenced considerable musical ability.
We sat down for the offering and sang "For I'm building a people of
power." I wondered if it were possible to build the kingdom of God
Exactly how long was the sermon?
5 minute children's address; 28 minute adult sermon.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Deacon Evans had a lovely lilting Welsh accent. He was very animated
and delightfully passionate in his delivery.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The children's address was about the anniversary of the abolition of slavery.
Slavery is about lack of respect for others. We need to respect other people.
The text for the adult sermon was from one of the readings, Judges 14:5-17
(Sampson poses the riddle "Out of the strong came forth something sweet"
after gathering honey produced by bees in the carcass of a lion he had killed).
The reading is an illustration of good coming from bad. It seemed as though
all was lost when Christ died on the cross – but then he rose from
the dead! As Christians we have joy, peace, forgiveness, family, humility,
gratitude, and an inheritance. Death is like the lion, like the animal that
Samson killed. Samson failed to reach his full potential. We need to be
dedicated to God, to be sunny, to walk with a spring in our step, to be
enthusiastic for God.
Which part of the service was like being in
Mr Evans' enthusiasm and the singing of the final hymn, "To God be
the glory." I could hardly keep my heart from jumping out of my chest!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The relatively low attendance – it was the chief topic of discussion after
the service. "There's a lot away." "Don't know where our
youngsters are." "I was young once, you know." "It's
all about priorities." And so on. I thought I detected just a tinge
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't have a chance to look lost. Deacon Evans shook my hand, and another
one of the deacons came to welcome me and asked where I was from. Soon a
small cluster of people gathered to listen. The deacon explained they were
without a minister at the moment but were waiting on God's provision, although
he didn't know how a small congregation with a weekly collection of no more
than £200 would pay a minister's salary.
How would you describe the after-service
No refreshments followed.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 On first impression, this church seemed just too rigid for me.
The people I spoke with seemed too settled to recognise the need for adaptability
in this fast moving world. In order to survive, congregations need to be
open to new ideas, not to wrap their churches up in safe traditions.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, because of the joy of the sermon, the pleasure of the singing, and the hope of the passionate for the future.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sermon and Samson's riddle. But I will think about all those practising
Christians who could have been at this service but weren't.
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