Calvary Chapel, York, England

Calvary Chapel, York, England


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Calvary Chapel
Location: York, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 9 March 2008, 10:30am

The building

They meet at Fishergate Primary School, among other venues. They have use of a number of rooms at the school, including a downstairs area where the Sunday school is held and where coffee is available after the service. The service was held in the school hall – imagine a standard primary school hall complete with gym wall bars, children's work displayed, etc. It is important to note that this is a temporary home, and the church will be moving out of here in July.

The church

Calvary Chapel was founded in Costa Mesa, California, in 1965 by Pastor Chuck Smith, who was to become a leading figure in what was called the Jesus Movement, an early hippie-style Pentecostal/evangelistic precursor to today's contemporary worship. From an initial membership of 25, they have expanded to more than 20,000 members throughout the world. There are 18 Calvary Chapels in England, Scotland and Ireland. Calvary Chapel York operates Calvary Chapel Bible College, which attracts students from all over the world.

The neighborhood

York, in northern England, was founded by the Romans in AD71 (they called it Eboracum) and for a time served as the de facto seat of government of the Roman Empire, several emperors having held court there. York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe after France's Cologne Cathedral, is the seat of the Archbishop of York, the second-highest ranking cleric in the Church of England. The economy of modern day York is heavily dependent on the service industry, including public sector employment, health, education, finance, information technology and tourism.

The cast

The pastor, Dave Sylvester.

What was the name of the service?

Sunday Morning Service.

How full was the building?

Mostly full – about 100 people in the service, and others in the Sunday school.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

I was handed some bits of paper as I entered – does that count? Also there was a point in the service where you could greet your neighbour. Two people said hello then.

Was your pew comfortable?

The chairs were padded stacking chairs, pretty comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Noisy and confusing. Lots of people talking to their friends. I felt very lonely.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Well, good morning. Why don't we stand together and worship the Lord."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

No books. Most people had their own Bibles. The bits of paper I mentioned earlier consisted of a notice sheet, prayer requests, song sheet, and a blank sheet for taking notes.

What musical instruments were played?

Three guitars, one of which was electric, and a percussion box.

Did anything distract you?

I got distracted by the colourful examples of children's work displayed around the hall. There were some wonderful Tudor portraits and Greek pots, but I was most distracted by the World Book Day display immediately opposite me, with photos of children dressed up as characters from their favourite books. One child appeared to be a particularly successful Professor Trelawney from the Harry Potter books.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

The worship consisted of six modern worship songs, sung one after the other, and a sermon. It was pretty standard modern worship. Some people put their hands in the air, but nothing wild.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

44 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

6 – I came away feeling I had learned more about the preacher's personal life than about God, as he used illustrations from his own life throughout the sermon. However, he also preached in what I think is the Calvary Chapel style, points made through lots of different Bible verses. Occasionally I couldn't work out what the point was, but I jotted the verses down anyway.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The title of the sermon was "The Judgment Seat of Christ." The main point was that we will all face judgment. God is working in our lives to change things so we can face him, and we will never regret giving up things to follow Christ.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The church was mainly full of young people. It was great to see so many young people worshipping the Lord.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

Feeling so alone. No one took any interest in me. I was aware that being of somewhat mature years I am probably not in the church's target age group, but I felt rather unwanted.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

No one noticed me or made eye contact. After five minutes, I began to feel rather in the way, as some rapid chair clearing was going on. And so I followed the flow downstairs to the coffee.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Well ... when I entered the room where coffee was being served, I was immediately distracted by a large and impressive bookstall. It covered three large tables. Many (possibly all) of the books were written by Calvary Chapel pastors (I spotted quite a few by Chuck Smith, founding pastor). When eventually I made it to the coffee, I found it was being served from large vacuum flasks, and you had to help yourself. As I went to pour mine the coffee ran out, and I just got a drop in my polystyrene cup. Fortunately a kind person poured some of her coffee into my cup, so I am able to report it was great, and the piece of danish pastry I also had was great too.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

6 – I really had high hopes for Calvary Chapel, knowing something of its history, but I felt very disappointed.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

I felt I was missing something – it was a kind of negative predestination feeling.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

I have a bad feeling it will be some detail of the pastor's life as recounted in his sermon.

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