Mystery Worshipper: Qwerty
Church: Church of All Nations
Location: Repulse Bay, Hong Kong
Date of visit: Sunday, 30 April 2006, 10:15am
Apart from the cross-topped tower in front, the building is not immediately recognisable as a church. It is squarish, and is part of the Hong Kong International School in Repulse Bay. Inside, the sanctuary is that of a typical Lutheran church, with chairs arranged like pews, a free standing altar in the front, and a font in the middle aisle.
The congregation is international; most seem to be European or Chinese, but many other ethnicities are also represented. They have a very liberal membership policy: you are considered a member on your second visit.
In the early 19th century, the area that is now Repulse Bay was a favorite hangout of pirates, whom the British succeeded in repulsing (hence the name). Today the area is primarily a well-to-do residential neighbourhood with a wide, clean beach washed by gentle waves. The church is situated in a little valley between two hills and is a short walk from Repulse Bay beach.
The Rev. Dale Koehneke, pastor; Jenika Garetson, assistant minister; Bill Leese, speaker; two other speakers whose names I couldn't catch.
What was the name of the service?Holy Communion
How full was the building?
It appeared about two-thirds full. The previous week's attendance was noted as 137 in the service folder; this week's looked similar.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Two people met us in the narthex before the service, welcoming us and asking where we were from. The pastor also greeted us after we were seated and mentioned us during the opening announcements. Two couples behind us spoke to us a little during the peace and immediately after the service before we left our seats.
Was your pew comfortable?
The chairs were well padded, so were sufficiently comfortable. They were placed right next to the others in the rows, so gave a bit of the feel of being in pews.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was quite reverential. There was some greeting and talking, but done quietly enough so as not to be distracting.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
After some announcements and the opening hymn, the call to worship and invocation began with the words, "Christ came to earth to walk among his people."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Lutheran Book of Worship for the hymns. The liturgy was printed in the service folder, including some hymns with new words to familiar tunes.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ. Couldn't see it as it was in a loft, but it sounded like a pipe organ.
Did anything distract you?
The two overhead projection screens were a bit worrisome, but fortunately, they weren't used. Also, the first hymn was "Now all the vault of heaven resounds," which I know quite well and sang with full voice. All went well till the fourth verse, when the organist played some quick interludes between phrases in the verse, completely throwing me off.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was mainly a traditional Lutheran liturgy – organ music, traditional hymns (or at least traditional music with new words in some cases), etc. However, some of the liturgy, such as the invocation, confession, and the prayer of the day, were home-grown, not drawn from scripture or from the traditional prayers.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – While the content was good, I found the sermon to be far too brief. And it was delivered from the front of the middle aisle instead of from the pulpit, which is a bit off-putting for me. Finally, when I heard the preacher say, "Christ lives in our hearts," I thought he might be about to de-emphasise Christ's bodily resurrection – but I needn't have worried.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon focused on the resurrection of Jesus, which was proper considering it was Easter 3. Christ is alive in our hearts, but also in his physical body by virtue of his resurrection. Without that, the church would fall.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The organ music was wonderful, as were the familiar, traditional hymns and tunes and mainly traditional liturgy. I also enjoyed the sermon, focused as it was on the resurrection.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Following the sermon, there were three long talks on missions that interrupted the natural flow from word to sacrament. In my opinion, such talks should be done outside the service.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A few people spoke to us as we all filed out during the postlude. After greeting the pastor on the way out, we stood at the entrance and waited. After a few minutes, one person approached us and spoke a bit, but that was it.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
We didn't have any. I was waiting after the service for someone to invite us to where the coffee was, but no one did. As no one else approached us, we left and went down to the beach.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – If I lived in Hong Kong, I'd certainly consider this church, but I would need to know how closely the service normally follows the traditional Lutheran liturgy. I'd also need to feel more secure about the quality and length of the sermons.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, particularly the focus on the resurrection and the familiar worship form.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The long disruptive talks after the sermon.