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Baptist, St Helier, Isle of Jersey
Baptist, St Helier, Isle of Jersey.
Baptist. I was unable to work out whether they are Baptist Union
or Independent Baptist.
A large mid-Victorian looking temple stuck in a St Helier back
street. However, it was nice to see that it has been retained
– and quite surprising really. It is a large classical
building with a large auditorium inside with some of its original
features still in place, including the pews. It looked like
a traditional Protestant God box although the communion table
is now central.
This is the main Baptist church for the island. They draw their
congregation from all over Jersey, as well as from visitors
and holiday-makers. They sponsor a number of what they call
"action groups," including care and visitation, world
ministry, and youth groups, as well as groups to take care of
the everyday running of the church (music and worship, sound
and technology, etc.).
St Helier, on Jersey's southern coast, is the largest town on
the island and the seat of Jersey's government, as well as the
site of the island's only significant retail centre. St Helier
combines the charm of a small harbour town with many of the
characteristics of a vibrant multicultural city and thus is
popular with visitors. The church is located amid a maze of
back streets filled with scores of shops catering to the recreational
boater. A massive French looking Catholic church dominates the
whole scene. There are also lots of other churches in the area,
some of which have changed hands.
The Revd Tim Welch, senior pastor (in a pink jumpster), led
the service. The speaker was the Revd John Woods, pastor of
Lancing Tabernacle, the independent evangelical church in West
The date & time:
17 February 2008, 6.30pm.
What was the name of the
How full was the building?
It was a quarter full, with people of all ages and a worship
band in the front. The congregation seemed to be decidedly of
the professional class – not many working-class people
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Compared to the welcome I had received that very morning at
Jersey church, the welcome I received here was an icy blast.
This is a large church and I guess maybe a new face doesn't
always register as being somebody new. One lady from the choir
at the front made an effort to start a conversation with me,
but everyone else appeared disinterested. I felt a bit lonely,
as I was visiting Jersey on my own, and could have used some
warmth. But I was just another face in the crowd.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was comfortable enough although it kept creaking – I am
sure the person in front was creaking too.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Busy. As with a lot of large evangelical churches, people were
fiddling with electrical equipment or playing around with other
technology. Anything to avoid extending any kind of warmth to
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
"Hello and welcome to Jersey Baptist Church."
What books did the congregation use during the
It was all on PowerPoint. I quite like PowerPoint when it isn't
made to look innovative and modern in that 80s kind of way.
What musical instruments
A very strange mixture of piano, electronic church organ, and
worship band. Given that the music was contemporary, it seemed
a bit odd! There was also a small group of voices. The music
was well presented and well sung for the most part (one of the
songs had to be stopped, as no one appeared to know it), but
it all seemed rather banal. It would have been nice to have
had some traditional music mixed in. Many Christians feel (mistakenly,
in my opinion) that church music has moved on since the traditional
days and that people don't feel comfortable and can't be brought
close to God unless the music is dumbed down with lyrics such
as "You're the best" repeated ad nauseam. Perhaps
the writers are just reflecting society's lack of imagination!
Did anything distract
There was a bloke eating sweets and opening the wrappers loudly.
I wanted to stop him but couldn't! Also it seems as though overactive
bladder syndrome is endemic among the male population of Jersey,
as many men walked out at different times throughout the service,
after which one could hear toilets being flushed quite audibly.
Maybe it was the cold weather outside! Finally, during the sermon
the lovely French bells from the Catholic church up the road
began to peal. Wouldn't it have been nice if the preacher had
stopped at that moment to listen and offer a prayer for their
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
It tried to be contemporary in a 1980s kind of way, but I found
it all quite unimaginative. The one highlight was an excellent
short talk by someone from Kenya who related her faith to what
was going on around her. At the end of the sermon, the pastor
thanked the visiting preacher and said, "God has spoken."
Well, I suppose so, but it sounded rather presumptuous.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
8 Very slick, rather like being at a business presentation.
Pastor Woods, the visiting preacher, seemed well-meaning, but
I couldn't help feeling that there was an underlying conservative
ethos (albeit with a social conscience), and I'm not sure how
well his message would have been received in a working class
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
Ironically, given the lack of warm welcome, Pastor Woods spoke
on the "R factor" R for relationships with
God, family and people around us. The R factor should affect
every aspect of church life. How has Jersey Baptist applied
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
I suppose the enthusiasm of the music and one or two conversations after the service.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
They tried their best to be relevant and contemporary, but the
overall feeling was one of cold and, with the congregation drawn
from the professional classes, one of "place." There
was an overwhelming sense that everyone "had their place"
just as surely as robes and vestments separate the clergy from
the laity in other churches. And God may well have spoken through
the sermon, but I think it should be in our hearts and scripture
to ascertain whether that is the case!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Some of the people sitting nearby made a friendly remark or
two. Perhaps I'm being unkind, but I felt no warmth. As I filed
out into the lobby, I noted that people were greeting the guest
preacher as if he were a conquering hero.
How would you describe the after-service
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 Despite feeling lonely and unwanted, I still thought
that this is a church with potential. Remember, guys, this isn't
the 1980s. And try to shake off the old UK professional class
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
It made feel like a very lonely pilgrim. Remember Hebrews 13:2:
"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so
some people have entertained angels without knowing it!"
(Not, of course, that I am an angel!)
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
That good music (or in this case the lack thereof) can make
or break a worship experience.
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