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2522: St Andrew's, East Kilbride, Scotland
St Andrew's, Kilbride
Mystery Worshipper: Morrison.
The church: St Andrew's, East Kilbride, Scotland.
Denomination: Methodist Church in Scotland.
The building: It is fairly modern, dating from 1975, and is well maintained, but its layout seems a bit haphazard. From what I could gather from my visit, there is the main meeting hall with toilets, kitchen and office attached. There is also another hall used for other groups.
The church: I couldn't see much about the groups or activities that went on, but I was informed about the youth work they do. From searching online, I found out that they now have a twice weekly drop-in centre for mothers and young children, as well as a weekly soup lunch.
The neighbourhood: East Kilbride, in the south of Scotland, was designated as Scotland's first "new town" (planned community) in 1947 and was named after St Bride (Brigit). George Orwell wrote his novel 1984 while convalescing from tuberculosis at a local hospital in 1947-48. The church is toward the outskirts of the town next to a mixture of housing stock.
The cast: The service was being led by Isobel Riddet and Kath Shanks, two of the congregation's worship leaders, as the regular minister was on sabbatical.
The date & time: 7 April 2013, 11.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Sunday Service for "Easter 2".

How full was the building?
It's a small sanctuary. There were 25 people in total, including myself. There were about 35 seats laid out, but I imagine that at least 80 seats could fit in the room if needed. The room didn't feel empty at all, despite the small number of congregants.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
At first, the two people near the entrance didn't notice I was a visitor, so I tried my best to look lost. Eventually someone showed me where I was to go and gave me the hymn book and Bible. Many people introduced themselves to me before the service and inquired about me, and I was sat next to by some lovely people.

Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfy! There were nice new blue wooden padded seats with a holder for a Bible and hymn book in the back.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Because it was a small congregation, everyone knew everyone else. Thus, people mingled and chatted with each other. There was so much chatter that many missed the "Let's prepare ourselves for worship" announcement at first.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
After the initial "Let's prepare ourselves for worship" announcement by a member of the congregation, the service was opened with: "Good morning, and welcome to this local arrangement service."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Good News Bible and a 2010 version of the Methodist Singing the Faith hymn book.

What musical instruments were played?
Sound clips via laptop and speakers. Unfortunately, despite the lovely grand piano in the room, the pianist was not available to play. Thus, the five hymns were sung with a backing track for each of them.

Did anything distract you?
Throughout the service, there was a constant static buzz from the speakers. This was despite their only being used for the five hymns, as no microphone was used for any of the other parts of the service. I could hear over it, but I imagine many of those with bad hearing would find it a struggle to hear above it.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I was fully expecting it to be rather traditional, but was quite pleased to hear both traditional hymns as well as reasonably modern songs such as Stuart Townend's "See what a morning" being played too, which many seemed to enjoy.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
14 minutes, although the two fairly long Bible readings were included in this.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – Unfortunately, neither of the speakers was particularly captivating. I think, perhaps due to lack of experience, they weren't very confident, and thus relied heavily upon a script, which made the sermon seem rather forced. It was more like I was at a nice story-telling event rather than at a church service. I struggled really to understand the line of thought.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The over-arching theme of it was "being made new" because of Easter.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
It was a friendly church, and they seemed to be really positive about things. It was nice to see people all mingle together and share in fellowship – a definite advantage of a smaller congregation.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
An announcement was made that they had a visitor today, and my name was mentioned. I was invited to stay for a cup of tea after the service. Because I was named and picked out, a couple of heads turned, and I felt a bit like was everyone else was going, "Look! It's a visitor!"

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't have too much of a chance to stand looking lost, as I was invited straight away for a cup of coffee and chatted to by a number of people. On my way out, I was once again approached and chatted to. They obviously don't like people feeling lost and lonely here!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I got a coffee, and very nice it was too. Got it in a big mug as well – better than small cups. For such a small church congregation, I was surprised at the big selection of cakes and biscuits.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – If we were to ignore the minor theological differences, and the connection I have to my present congregation, then I wouldn't have too much problem making this my home church. The lack of younger people might be a problem, though.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, very much so. I could see the good kingdom-building work that was going on.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I think I will remember the friendliness, perhaps over-friendliness, of all of the people at the service.
 
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