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|1942: St Mungo's,
Balerno, near Edinburgh, Scotland
August in Hippo.
Balerno near Edinburgh, Scotland.
Episcopal Church, Diocese
of Edinburgh. They are affiliated with Alpha,
Wine Scotland, and Willow
The church has its own building where the early traditional
Sunday service is held, but the later two contemporary services
are held at Balerno
High School, from the outside a pleasant enough looking
building dating from the 1980s set amid green lawns and foliage.
Inside it is a bit of a warren and smells like schools always
seem to (with an added hint of chlorine from the swimming pool).
The auditorium is dark and festooned with all the usual curtained
stages, projection screens, etc. It is an odd kind of space,
with paving stone flooring, garden benches, an ugly concrete
ceiling, and pipes everywhere.
They support all the usual ministries, including youth groups,
men's and women's ministries, house groups, prayer cells, etc.
They put a lot of their effort into their wellness centre which,
quoting from their website, is "about being all that we
are made to be, emotionally and spiritually" (though I'm
not sure what that means!). They also have a counselling programme.
Balerno lies a short distance southwest of the Edinburgh city
centre and was known for its flax, snuff and paper mills until
very recently. Today the suburb is primarily residential in
character – slightly dreary apart from the wild Scottish hills
nearby. The school has a river running beside it that was in
full spate due to recent snows melting.
The service was led mainly by a youngish man on guitar whose
name was not given. (Nor is his name apparent from a perusal
of their website, although the parish mascot, a member of the
species Mungos mungo (banded mongoose), is given prominent
billing.) The Revd Richard McArthur, senior associate minister,
gave the talk. The service was closed by the Revd Malcolm Round,
The date & time:
Easter Sunday, 4 April 2010, 10.30am.
What was the name of the
Easter at St Mungos: Guest Sunday. Guest Sunday, a regular feature
at the church, is described on their website as "a creative
and contemporary church service which illustrates how the Christian
faith is still relevant today" and is aimed at people who
"don’t usually go to church."
How full was the building?
Full. There seemed to be several hundred people there.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were a bit late so had to find where to leave our children.
But at each station the leaders welcomed us and the children,
and introduced the children to others of the same age. When
we eventually made it to the service proper, we were welcomed
at the door and ushered to a seat.
Was your pew comfortable?
A brown plastic stacking chair. Hard but bearable.
How would you describe the pre-service
Missed out on this.
What were the exact opening words of the
Missed these. When we came in, the worship (i.e. singing) was
already in full swing.
What books did the congregation use during the
No books. Everything was projected onto screens.
What musical instruments were played?
Guitar and drums plus vocalist.
Did anything distract
The guitarist 's image was projected onto the screens along
with the words for the songs. I found this slightly irritating
and thought it made it harder to concentrate on worshipping
God. I also really disliked the dark green curtains behind the
stage, which made the space seem even more dark and dreary.
I was struck by the rector's long greying hair in a pig tail
– he seemed to be trying to be the very opposite of the cuddly
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Happy clappy in a Scottish way (they didn't look that happy,
but many did raise their arms in the air). The music was light
rock, with a couple of older hymns. I enjoyed the relaxed and
holy atmosphere of the worship.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Well, before the sermon (or I thought it was a prelude) we had
a sketch, and then an interview, and then lastly a talk. All
in all it lasted about 35 minutes, but it all blended into one
so I wasn't sure which bit was sermon and what was bonus material!
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 The sketch at the beginning was extremely professional
and engaging. The truth of the interviewee's story made a long
interview fly by. The talk bit was the least interesting and
seemed to be the preacher padding out the really interesting
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
(Sketch) In the church of Christ we find freedom from problems
such as agoraphobia (fear of going out in public), addiction
to pornography, and trauma from relationships. (Interview) The
interviewee spoke passionately about the ups and downs in his
life, from being a police officer to a homeless alcoholic to
running a homeless shelter. (Talk) In Christ we can find help.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The music, sketch and interview made me feel closer to God than I have done for a long time.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Having to watch the main protagonists on a big screen all
the time! I appreciate it may have been hard to see from some
parts of the room, but it made it all feel a bit like a television
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Visitors were invited to stop by a welcome station. There, we
were greeted warmly, introduced to people from the church, and
served tea or coffee. The rector introduced himself (in a slightly
How would you describe the after-service
Perfectly reasonable tea and coffee.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 We live over 400 miles away. Even if we lived closer,
this felt slightly too slick, polished and organised for me
to make it my regular. It was an interesting one-off, though.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. I was really inspired by what I heard that God can do.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The story of the policeman/addict.
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