Mystery Worshipper: Minister of Music
Church: Highfields Free Church
Location: Cardiff, Wales
Date of visit: Sunday, 11 October 2009, 11:15am
Very modern building. The only thing I can describe it as is a British "megachurch." It is very self sufficient, has a huge fellowship hall, Sunday school rooms, many meeting rooms, a library, kitchen, offices and study rooms, and a huge chapel sanctuary area.
People come from all over the area, yet the church does so many things for the community. They put on many evangelistic events, things for students, things for teenagers, and loads of activities for men, women and children.
Highfields is situated in the young and lively Cathays section of Cardiff, in the same area as a few other churches.
The Revd Peter Baker, minister; the Revd Simon Price, assistant minister.
What was the name of the service?Morning Worship.
How full was the building?
Ninety per cent full – around 400 to 500 people in total. Bearing in mind that there had just been another morning service at 9.30, I think this was an amazing number. They also have a 6.30 evening service, so you can guess how many people this church ministers to.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, Highfields has a welcome team ready to greet people, especially newcomers! I spoke with a young man named Hugo. He was very welcoming and made me feel at home straight away. He directed me to go and get some tea before the service, which was lovely. The minister himself also greeted me, as he was standing by the main entrance to say good-bye to those who had come out of the previous service. I also spoke with a man named Doug who was just part of the congregation, but who was again very welcoming. When I was sitting in my seat, others said good morning, gave smiles, and made conversation.
Was your pew comfortable?
We had a choice! Chair or pew. The chairs were comfy, but I went and sat in a pew, as the pews were tiered. I wanted to see everything that was going on in the service. The pew was as comfortable as pews get. If you didn't like the pew, then obviously you could opt for a nice comfy seat on the main floor.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Busy, buzzing, full of life. There was lots of hand shaking, hugging, talking, loads of children, young people and students, and lovely music to welcome people who had come to worship. It was a very homely atmosphere.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to Highfields! We want to welcome those especially if they are new or visiting with us this morning!"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Everything was done on screen, from words of the hymns to the words of the Bible. However, for those who preferred books, they used Complete Mission Praise, a book produced in-house called The Red Book, and The Holy Bible, New International Version.
What musical instruments were played?
Near enough for a mini orchestra. They had piano, violin, cello, acoustic guitar, bass, flute, clarinet, drums, and some vocalists.
Did anything distract you?
Only minor things distracted me. They left the main door to the chapel open throughout the service, so in the corner of my eye I could see people going back and forth from the toilets and from Sunday school. Someone's phone went off in the sermon, and the pews in the tiered seating were a bit creaky at times!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was blended, which is the best sort of worship for a church in the 21st century, I believe. They had both old and new hymns/songs, and even songs that could be understood by small children. I did get the feeling, however, that some people may have wanted to clap a bit more, or raise their hands, but maybe felt that they couldn't in case they were frowned upon by others. I'm not too sure.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Pastor Baker was very very dynamic. He used anecdotes and stories, and made the congregation laugh. He grabbed our attention straight away. And the main thing was that he preached the gospel, and was Bible centred.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was about the making of a disciple. He took John 1 as his text, and went through the various characters mentioned in that chapter, linking their stories to our situations today. It was a great gospel message.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I thought the preaching was amazing! Very good to listen to, easy on the ear, and everyone in the chapel would have known by the end of the sermon whether they were a Christian or not. The singing was terrific, too. The worship team had obviously put a lot of work into practising for Sunday services.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Probably the creaking seats, and there was also a whistling noise at one point. I couldn't work out where it was coming from, but it annoyed me.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Many people came to speak to me, and I was invited to go to a welcome lunch for newcomers and students. It was delicious, and I was really happy that people had taken the time to come and say hello.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Lovely. There was tea, coffee, biscuits, cold drinks available, all free of charge, and served by an army of volunteers, which was a great witness to the church.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – It made me feel wonderful!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. Together with the preaching, the singing, and the fellowship, I felt that this is what heaven will be like. People who are like minded, Christ loving, Bible teaching people, who generally care and who are really genuine people.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The warm fellowship of the church, and how it reminds me of some of those megachurches in America. Also the sermon and the worship time will stay etched in my mind, too.