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  1063: West Croydon Baptist, West Croydon, Surrey

West Croydon Baptist, West Croydon, Surrey

Mystery Worshipper: Two sheds.
The church: West Croydon Baptist, West Croydon, Surrey.
Denomination: Baptist.
The building: An impressive red brick Victorian building with large sash windows and exterior ornate pillars. The church was founded in 1869. Inside, several features caught my eye: two beautifully ornate staircases at the front of the church, which led to an impressive organ; and above was a striking purple ceiling with white crossbeams.
The cast: Rev. Rupert Lazer led the service; Rev. Malcom Patten preached.

What was the name of the service?
6.30pm service.

How full was the building?
It was sparsley populated, with only 15 of us in the congregation.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, three people came up to me and either said hello or introduced themselves. One person noticed that I did not have a hymn book and went to get one for me.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. There was a long cushion going the length of the pew, and extra cushions were available.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet, peaceful. A group of three people were praying quietly in a corner at the front the church.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Well, here we are, how nice to see you."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A Bible, and the Songs of Fellowship hymn book.

What musical instruments were played?
A guitar and keyboard. Drums were also visible, but not in use.

Did anything distract you?
Only a car roaring past outside.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Two musicians were playing at the front and Rupert Lazer led the singing. The worship was sincere, but the songs were a little old fashioned, although I enjoyed them as they were familiar to me. Considering the small number of people present, the volume of singing was good.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
35 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The preacher interacted well with the congregation and made them laugh by relating some amusing personal experiences which were relevant to the passage. He also made good use of biblical references.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was the last in a series, following the "I am" sayings of Jesus. We looked at John chapter 15, where Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches." Malcolm Patten, our preacher, pointed out that the children of Israel were the original "vine", but that they did not fulfil their potential. Jesus is now "the vine" and the church is "the branches". As long as we abide in Jesus we will be fruitful. It is important that the church does not think that it is "the vine".

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The building was comfortably heated and I sensed a warm and peaceful atmosphere.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There is a lovely balcony upstairs, but for some reason several large windows were blacked out. I would have liked to see the natural daylight pervade the upper part the building.

If intercessory prayers were said, what issues were raised?
The prayers were extemporary, and came from members of the congregation and the leader. They mainly thanked God for his goodness to us. There was no mention of the Pope, the general election or the Third World.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A lady who had spoken to me earlier said that she hoped I had enjoyed the service and that perhaps they would see me again.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no after service coffee.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – I understand that the morning service has a large congregation and that it is much livelier.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, because the worship and sermon were sincere and the people were welcoming.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Praying with two people who were complete strangers to me. During the service, we were encouraged to get into groups of three to pray with each other. We were told that we need not reveal any personal details if we did not want to, but that we should just pray for Jesus' peace for each other. Since I have been in this kind of situation before, I was not phased by it, but I am concerned that anyone who visits the church as a complete stranger to the Christian tradition may find this uncomfortable, and have difficulty dealing with it.
 
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