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Road Methodist, Durham, England
Road Methodist, Durham, England.
Church in Great Britain, Darlington
and Deerness Valley Circuit.
A moderately large, imposing mid-19th century building, with
columns at the entrance, but somehow squat and square at the
same time. Inside, it's been recently refurbished, and is very
light and airy. There's a balcony that stretches around three
sides of the building, with the pipes for the organ on the fourth
side. On the ground floor, rows of chairs with a central aisle
face the communion table, behind which is a beautiful driftwood
cross. There were very few other adornments in the church.
There seems to be a busy schedule of Bible studies, men's breakfasts,
choir practice, women's groups, and a mission course. They appear
to have close links with the other inner-city Methodist church,
North Road is one of the main shopping areas in Durham, albeit
the cheaper end, and not situated on the peninsula itself. Close
by are most of Durham's charity shops, the bus station, and
residential housing. The cathedral, the castle, and the wonderful
railway viaduct lie within sight, which leads to a slightly
odd mix of glorious ancient beauty and slightly run-down modernity.
No one was introduced before or during the service. A gentleman
stood up at the beginning to make a couple of announcements,
but otherwise no one else took part in leading the service.
The date & time:
15 January 2012, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
Sunday Morning Worship.
How full was the building?
The ground floor was around half full, but the balcony wasn't
being used. The congregation were made up of about 70 per cent
over 50s, with a few students and younger couples. Although
the church advertises a Young Church also held at 10.30, I saw
no sign of this anywhere.
Did anyone welcome you
As I entered, I was handed the hymn books with a handshake and
a friendly greeting of "Welcome." At the first opportunity after
the service, two people bounded up to me to welcome me and find
out who I was.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were cushioned chairs. The backs were too upright for
me the top edge dug into my back slightly. But otherwise
they were very comfortable. A nice touch was that the rows were
spaced with plenty of leg room, without feeling too spread out.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
There was a gentle hum of chatter. People clearly expected the
service to start on time, because everyone arrived with plenty
of time. In the notice sheet, it said, "We start with a time
of quiet preparation during the playing of 'Be Still.'" This
was not followed by many people, who only quietened when the
minister came in from the vestry, half way through.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning! Before we start, we've got two very nice announcements
to make." Following these announcements of births, the service
began properly with: "Jesus said: 'I am the gate. Whoever enters
through me will be saved.'"
What books did the congregation use during the
Hymns and Psalms and the church's own collection: North
Road Methodist Favourites, Old and New. There was no Bible
within sight, so I am unsure what version was used.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano.
Did anything distract you?
The minister's microphone was clicking, crackling and squeaking
every time he spoke. I suspect it was rubbing on his jacket,
because when he was making bigger gestures it got worse.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
This was traditional Methodist hymn sandwich, with two "modern"
songs thrown in (I don't think either were post-1990). The congregation
were singing louder than some I've heard, but were somehow lacklustre
and unenthusiastic. Somewhat like school assemblies, when you
know you're going to get told off if you don't sing, but you
don't really want to. Even when the choir got up to sing a song,
though they were making a good attempt at four part harmonies
mostly in tune, it still sounded like they were bored!
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 The preacher was relaxed, and came up with good explanations
of what he meant, but I think he pushed his "door" metaphor
a bit far. But there was nothing earth shattering, or anything
that gave me a new perspective on the subject. This, of course,
may not have been true for everyone.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Good decision making is necessary for good stewardship. Doors
can represent decisions that we have to make, and in making
the decision, we might have to face something scary. Sometimes
they are escape routes from something we find difficult or scary.
How do we know what decision to make? Jesus says he is the gate,
the door. But this doesn't mean we will hear his voice clearly,
or that the decision will be easy. Samuel had to learn to hear
God's voice, and then what God wanted him to do was very hard.
Which part of the service was like being in
The organist/pianist was particularly good, and the piece after the service was wonderful to hear.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The performance of the choir. Although it was a perfectly acceptable
performance (despite, as previously stated, lacklustre), it
was just that: a performance. At the beginning we were told,
"Why should the Salvation Army have all the best tunes?"
but with no further explanation of its relevance to the service.
It felt slightly too much like showing off, or doing it just
for the fun of it.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
I wasn't given the chance to hang around looking lost
I was pounced on by two women almost as soon as the service
had finished. When I went downstairs for a cup of tea, another
lady started talking to me, and others who overheard soon joined
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
The tea was refreshingly strong and was served in a cup with
saucer, always difficult to balance when having to deal with
the thick layers a frosty January morning in the north of England
brings. I did find out that mugs were also available after I
got my tea.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 The community were very friendly, but it's also a touch on the traditional side for my taste, and a little more enthusiasm for worship would be good.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, it's always good to go to a church whose congregation are
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Probably the beautiful cross on the wall behind the communion
table, and the organist.
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