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  1479: Rugby Methodist Centre, Rugby, England

Rugby Methodist Centre, Rugby, England

Mystery Worshipper: Lady Lyndon.
The church: Rugby Methodist Centre, Rugby, England.
Denomination: Methodist Church of Great Britain.
The building: Land for the present building became available when Russelsheim Way and the gyratory system (which can be described as a roundabout on steroids) were built. It's a large, modern building in shades of brown with a small white steeple. The premises include a worship area seating 250 people, an adjoining lounge which can be used for overflow, a large hall, and two smaller classrooms. The entire premises are on one level and were designed to be disabled-friendly from the outset. It replaces older buildings used by the various churches that merged to form Rugby Methodist Centre; some of these are still in use by other denominations.
The church: Rugby Methodist Centre was formed in 1984 from the amalgamation of three previous Methodist churches, joined shortly thereafter by a fourth. In addition to morning and evening worship plus junior church on Sundays, they sponsor tea parties and fellowship groups during the week, plus holy communion on the last Friday of each month and evening prayer at mid-month.
The neighbourhood: Rugby is a moderately sized town in the West Midlands region of England. There is evidence of human habitation during the iron age, and the Romans maintained a settlement here. Through the middle ages and into the 19th century, Rugby remained a sleepy market town until the coming of the railways, which turned the town into a major industrial centre. Rugby became famous for its railway junction, which was the setting for Charles Dickens's story "Mugby Junction." In 1823, during a game of Rugby School regulation football, a young man named William Webb Ellis surprised his fellow players by catching the ball and running with it, thus giving the world the popular sport that bears the school's name. In 1937 the prototype of the world's first jet engine was built at Rugby. Today, Rugby has absorbed many surrounding villages, some of which have retained their village centres, and the architecture is a mixture of modern, Victorian, and much older buildings.
The cast: One of the "church ladies," Dorn Margetts, led the service. Their minister had recently retired and the new one was not yet due to arrive.
The date & time: Sunday, 26 August 2007, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
All Age Worship.

How full was the building?
Just under half full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
My husband, Lord Lyndon, and I were welcomed by a very congenial Colin, who then introduced us to his wife Ruth and another steward, Steve. We told Colin where we were from and the word spread.

Was your pew comfortable?
The seats were foam-backed interlocking wooden chairs. I'm afraid I didn't find them comfy and may need a trip to the chiropractor as a result. However, Lord Lyndon didn't complain, and I suspect that the church regulars are satisfied with them.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very quiet and reserved.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome to all visitors." (Did this mean that the regulars weren't welcome?)

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Copies of the Good News Bible, Hymns and Psalms and Mission Praise were available, but all words were displayed on a large screen.

What musical instruments were played?
An organ. I'm afraid it sounded very much like an accordion, or even a calliope. I was reminded of the carousel I used to ride at Blackpool when a child. I could almost smell sticks of that unique confection known as Blackpool Rock.

Did anything distract you?
Oh, just the usual things, you know: cars racing and police sirens outside. Also, it seemed to me that more than the usual number of worshippers were afflicted with coughing spells. If only my Blackpool Rock could have morphed into some cough sweets!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was definitely reserved. I didn't feel a sense of people enjoying themselves, but who am I to judge? Everyone may have been bursting with enthusiasm, but they didn't show it. The first hymn, "He's got the whole world in his hand," made me wonder why God was depicted as being one-handed. Had he somehow lost his other hand? A special highlight was a presentation by a gentleman named Mike Fielding, who had just returned from Sierra Leone.

Rugby Methodist Centre, Rugby, England

Exactly how long was the sermon?
7 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – Dorn Margetts had an engaging smile and I liked her enormously. But she seemed a little insecure (but I'm no psychology expert) and even seemed a bit relieved that there was another presentation to fill up the time.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Worshipping God every day, not just on Sundays.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The congenial Colin, the steward who welcomed us on arrival. He was warm, friendly and went out of his way to make us feel special. We liked the traditional hymns and knew all of them. I was also pleased to be led into prayer with the old version of the Lord's Prayer. I always find it uplifting.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
First, the length of the talk about Sierra Leone. At 35 minutes, it was simply too long, and perhaps would have been better presented at a separate service or meeting. Mike Fielding's work there was laudable and fascinating, but I found my thoughts wandering more often than not back to the carousel at Blackpool. Second, the Bible readers. Reading the Bible out loud is a special skill, where the words should be communicated to the congregation by a reader who truly understands what he or she is reading. Today, the verses were read out very quickly, without any depth or feeling, and I've got only a vague recollection of something being read from Isaiah and Luke.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It was difficult to look lost because the lovely Colin had spread the word about our arrival. We chatted with him and other members of the congregation – a thoroughly pleasant lot.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
They have a fair trade trolley on display laden with goods for sale, and so I assume their tea was fair trade. It tasted great, but the accompanying biscuit was stale. I was too polite to ask to try another one.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – Lord Lyndon and I didn't feel at all inspired by today's service. However, once the new minister starts we will most likely give it another go. At today's service, I felt a distinct lack of passion for Christ, but if the church were prepared to have a few cages rattled, I would consider making this my regular place of worship. Time will tell with the new minister.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. I realised that I feel God's awesome power and presence wherever I am, even in an uninspiring service.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Affable Colin. It was a joy to meet him.
 
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