Highway Church, Penryn, Cornwall, UK


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Highway Church, Penryn
Location: Cornwall, UK
Date of visit: Sunday, 13 August 2023, 10:45am

The building

The church meets at the Highway Community Centre on Church Road, in an old school which is a Grade II listed building. Inside is a meeting hall, with a newly remodelled coffee lounge and soft play area.

The church

Highway Church began life in 1993, and bought the old school building in 2012, which it runs as a church and community centre. According to their website: ‘Our heart is for the people of Penryn to live in wholeness and freedom as a community; we believe that this can only be achieved through practical demonstrations of Christ’s love.’ On the community side, the church runs the Penryn & Falmouth Foodbank, and a Youth Café on Monday nights. There are also home groups, Alpha and a discipleship course, ‘Freedom in Christ’. The church is overseen by a team of elders, and is affiliated to Church of the Nations, ‘an international family of churches relating through love and commitment to see the Kingdom of God extended on earth’.

The neighborhood

Penryn is an historic town of just over 7,000 people, one mile north of Falmouth. It has many buildings dating from Tudor, Jacobean, Georgian and Victorian times, and is a conservation area. The town is home to the Penryn Campus, where some 6,000 students from the Universities of Falmouth and Exeter live and study.

The cast

A member of the congregation led the service and another preached.

What was the name of the service?


How full was the building?

Approximately 60 seats were set out, and 35-40 people were in attendance.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Yes, on arrival there was a welcome team, consisting of the senior leader, the preacher, and a member of the congregation. They were very welcoming, and asked where we were from.

Was your pew comfortable?

Padded metal framed seats, which were very comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Friendly chatter as the congregation enjoyed a coffee, which was served from 10.30am.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Good morning and welcome.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Song lyrics, and Bible verses, which appeared to be from the New International Version, were projected on a screen.

What musical instruments were played?

A keyboard and an acoustic guitar.

Did anything distract you?

A few things. Road noise (the church is very close to the road); a couple of babies at the back of the church; and the screen projector being balanced on a couple of books and what appeared to be a DVD case, on a bracket on the wall.

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

Fairly relaxed, contemporary worship. Personally, I don't like the term 'happy clappy', but I’m sure others would describe it as such.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

21 minutes.

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

8 — The preacher, Sarah, was speaking for the first time at this church, having been a member for some years. She was very quietly spoken and could have done with the microphone being closer to her mouth. She was very nervous, which was understandable.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The subject was Thomas, the apostle, as part of a series, Superheroes of Faith. The start was excellent, with a video clip of the theme tune to the 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoon Hong Kong Phooey. As a child of the 70s, this evoked fond memories of poor quality pictures on my parents black and white TV. The sermon itself was well structured, focusing on a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) of Thomas. I've heard a few sermons on this apostle over the years and this was one of the best.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Hearing the Hong Kong Phooey theme tune was like being reunited with a good friend not seen for decades. Perhaps it was a foretaste of the heavenly reunion with those that have gone before!

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

The worship leader had a rambling style, which could have been reined in a little. The welcome included mentioning a number of people who had returned from holiday, as well as several who were on holiday or ill. I felt sorry for those who didn't get a mention.

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

No chance in being left alone after the service. The couple in front turned around and started a conversation, followed by others as coffee was served.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Decent coffee served from the coffee bar with tea, cordial etc. There were some biscuits. Donations towards the costs were invited.

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

8 — If I was in the area again, I would certainly return.

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

Very much so.

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

The genuine sense of welcome.

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