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1837: Rock Community Church, Dumbarton, Scotland
Rock Community Church, Dumbarton, Scotland
Mystery Worshipper: Ironted.
The church: Rock Community Church, Dumbarton, Scotland.
Denomination: Non-denominational.
The building: The church meets at the Burgh Hall, Castle Street. The Old Burgh Hall is a Class A listed building and looks like it once was visually pleasing but is at the moment covered in scaffolding. The New Burgh Hall is round the back and has a very nondescript front door, kept open by a yellow bollard. The hall is available for hire.
The church: Rock Community Church is a former house church that has been meeting in halls for the last few years. It is the only non-denominational church in Dumbarton and one of only a very few in the built-up area to the west of Glasgow and south of the Highlands. Nevertheless, the church seems to have good links with other churches of all flavours in the town and others across the country of a similar ilk to themselves. They advertise on their website that they are a friendly community church. The impression that one gets from visiting is that they clearly care about each other.
The neighbourhood: Dumbarton is the ancient capital of Strathclyde, known for its castle on the rock upon which a fortress has stood for over 1500 years. People from the town are known as "Sons of the Rock." The castle and rock are visible from the car park and look stunning as opposed to the rest of the vicinity – which feels quite dilapidated. It is situated very close to a town centre which has clearly suffered from competition from the St James retail park (which is quite close for an out-of-town shopping centre). There are not many houses nearby; most people, despite living in the town, seemed to drive to church.
The cast: Alistair Macindoe, one of the elders, led the service. Patricia Macindoe, also an elder, taught the sermon. The music was led by David and Yvonne Lyon, who were visiting from Greenock. Jane Nicol, a youth worker, shared a psalm she felt was relevant to the church, while others spoke out, prayed, and read scripture during the service.
The date & time: 11 October 2009, 10.30am (but it started formally at 10.43am).

What was the name of the service?
Main gathering for worship.

How full was the building?
Around half: there were around 40 people present in four long rows. The congregation were a little older than I expected – the majority seemed to be over 50 years old. There were a few young adults/teenagers but very few children. It was, however, the local half term and we were told some people were away.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were welcomed by Ruth (on the door) and Maureen, Kirsten, Janet, Caleb and Alistair (amongst others), who introduced themselves as we sat and waited for the formal start.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, comfortable cushioned seats, set out with enough space between them in rows, three to start with. A fourth row was added around 10.35am.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Chatty. Everyone seemed to be talking to other people, mainly standing. We sat, as being visitors we felt more comfortable doing so. People came up to us on a regular basis.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. Good morning, everyone. Let's take a seat."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Bible played an important role in the service, although there were not any readily available for visitors. The songs were relayed on a screen by a computer. We weren't given anything to hold and use.

What musical instruments were played?
A keyboard and an acoustic electric guitar. Both David and Yvonne Lyon, the visitors from Greenock, had microphones and shared the leading of the singing.

Rock Community Church, Dumbarton, Scotland

Did anything distract you?
The sung worship did not flow as I expected. At the end of each song, people read out from the Bible, prayed, or talked to each other. It did mean I spent quite some time watching what was happening rather than just worshipping God. The lady sitting next to me had a fantastic singing voice. However, she also had an energetic toddler, which unfortunately meant she disappeared to the back of the hall after the first song.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The singing was beautiful if a little quiet. David and Yvonne had great voices and instrumental skills and introduced a couple of their own songs too. The speakers, though, didn't produce the sound to enable any clapping, if anyone would have wanted to.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
31 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – Patricia Macindoe struggled to use the PowerPoint but kept pressing the wrong buttons. She concentrated a lot on the Bible, favouring it over other materials, but then she was advertised on the website as a teacher rather than a preacher.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Her text was Hebrews 7 (the priesthood of the order of Melchizedek was mortal and imperfect, but Jesus the High Priest is immortal and perfect). Jesus is greater than anyone else. A lot of modern churches say we don't need a priest anymore, but we do – and it's Jesus!

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
David, Yvonne, and the singing of the woman next to me (with the toddler). The welcoming nature of the people before the service, and talking to Alistair afterwards.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Waiting for more chances to sing during the first part of the service. Then missing the beginning of the liveliest song at the end whilst I was taking my daughter to the toilet.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A gentleman named Tom talked to us about dentists. He goes to one near where we live, who is very good and cheaper than the competition. Alistair came to talk to us as well and was very forthcoming about the church and their local and joint church involvement as well as being interested in where we had come from. He was easy to talk to. One could see why God called him to be a pastor.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Good tea, probably fair traded, with some great cakes and a variety of biscuits on offer too. The squash (fruit drink) was diluted to just the right consistency.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – If we lived closer we would seriously consider it.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. We felt related to people we met as brothers and sisters in Christ.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Dancing at the back with my daughter when we arrived back from the toilet to find people singing another song.
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