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3130: Aldeburgh Baptist, Aldeburgh, England
Aldeburgh Baptist (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Archie Deacon.
The church: Aldeburgh Baptist, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England.
Denomination: Baptist Union of Great Britain, Eastern Baptist Association.
The building: The chapel is an early 19th century building in classical style, set back behind railings in Aldeburgh High Street and painted pale blue. The interior features white walls and dark woodwork. A raised pulpit stands behind the communion table. In the rear there is a gallery in which organ pipes are visible, but their organ appears silent, as we sang to pre-recorded organ music.
The church: For such a small church, they are quite involved in the community and with other local Baptist churches. They have a lunch club, an art group, Bible study, prayer group, and "Rainbow Tots." They also run an Alpha course. There is one service each Sunday.
The neighbourhood: Aldeburgh is a seaside town in Suffolk about 25 miles northeast of Ipswitch. Composer Benjamin Britten and his partner, tenor Peter Pears, lived here and founded Aldeburgh Music, a year-round concert venue that puts on an annual festival each June. Britten's house and studio are open to the public. The church is in Aldeburgh High Street, which in the summer is heaving and was busy even in early March. The High Street is full of old buildings and very pleasant, and the sea front is close – although not a nice beach!
The cast: Someone named Mike (we never found out his other name!). He appears not to be the pastor, as another gentleman is named on their website as occupying that position.
The date & time: Sunday, 12 March 2017, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Morning Service.

How full was the building?
We arrived at 10.28 and there were only two people there, both of whom were visitors. Fortunately there was an influx (including a family of six) and at length there were about twenty of us; but even in a small church it seemed fairly empty.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A welcomer gave us a notice sheet and said, "There's a lot of us away today," which worried me a bit as it was early March and not holiday time.

Was your pew comfortable?
Hard wooden pews – no doubt the original. There were cushions to make them a bit more comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
We chatted to the other two visitors, but as we were the only ones there, it was pretty quiet.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, everybody. Lovely to welcome everybody."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymns were on screen. The Holy Bible, New International Version, was used in the service.

What musical instruments were played?
A guitar accompanied some hymns; the remainder were accompanied by a recorded organ.

Did anything distract you?
The only children in the church were in the row in front. I'm afraid they seemed a bit bored, particularly during the children's spot, which was about Esther. I got the impression that they didn't really follow it.

Aldeburgh Baptist (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
All but one the hymns were Victorian or older. We only knew two, one of which was the non-Victorian "Fishers of Men," which was definitely the one sung with most enthusiasm. The organ recording was a bit loud and tended to drown out the singing. At one point the volume dropped but it seemed to have been a temporary fault and soon resumed its previous volume.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
30 minutes. This included a half time interval when we had a hymn.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Mike delivered the sermon in a good humoured style, with anecdotes about football, the boat race, and trooping the colour. I found it a bit long, although the second half was more interesting.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The reading was Luke 9:44 (Jesus predicts his Passion). The sermon was basically about Christ's mission and the gulf between our behaviour and his. We can change our journey. This was linked to the roads around Aldeburgh (which was a bit lost on us visitors!).

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Some of the anecdotes during the sermon were amusing, which made one feel good.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The very hard pews – even with the cushions it was too much for me. And the recorded organ.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We stood around for a few minutes, but eventually had to ask where tea and coffee were being served. When we had tea, some people did talk to us and were friendly.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea was very strong! We don't know if it was fairly traded. There were biscuits.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – I'd like there to be a few more people in the congregation. And I prefer a mix of old and modern worship.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Overall, yes.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
That I knew so few of the hymns! I usually know most!
 
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