Mystery Worshipper: Sunbeam
Church: Leeds Central Citadel
Location: Leeds, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 10 October 2010, 11:00am
Two modern red brick buildings connected via a glass atrium.
They maintain a busy roster of programmes, including Sunday worship, hospital and nursing home visitation, Sunday school, a special worship service for shoppers, a luncheon club, and a snack and chat group. They also have a good student support group. And, of course, being the Salvation Army, they give food to the homeless and needy.
Leeds can trace its origin back to the fifth century and is named after Loidis, a forest covering most of the area at that time. The Venerable Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, described a church "in the region known as Loidis" of which only the altar survived. Leeds was a market town during the Middle Ages and developed into an important manufacturing centre during the Industrial Revolution, specialising in woolen finishing and flax mills, and later printing, engineering, chemicals and clothing manufacture. The decline of local industry in the early 20th century saw a brief reversal during World War II, when Leeds was an important centre for the manufacture of military uniforms and munitions. Twenty-first century Leeds has become a major electronic banking centre. The Leeds Central Citadel is in a small industrial area, just a two minute walk from the bus station. There is a very nice all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant across the road. The Little London area, consisting of high-rise and maisonette council housing, is a few minutes walk away.
Major Andrew Spivey; Major Valerie Spivey.
What was the name of the service?Harvest Sunday.
How full was the building?
There were a large number of free seats in the balcony, but downstairs was quite full. For some reason the worship band and choir stationed themselves in the balcony – more about this later.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A veritable greeting line seemed to be waiting for me as I entered. Even after I sat down, people kept coming up and introducing themselves. They seemed to be quite genuine in wanting to know me.
Was your pew comfortable?
Lovely seating – padded chairs, wide cushioned for larger people.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Chatty. There was a guy sitting at the piano playing quiet songs, but everyone was chatting with each other. Suddenly the brass band started playing, and everyone knew it was time to sit down and start.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning on this Harvest Weekend."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Books were not needed, since all songs were on an overhead screen. However, there was a supply of Salvation Army song books and copies of The Source, a weekly publication.
What musical instruments were played?
The brass band played the traditional songs and a worship band played the modern songs. They also had a children's and adult choirs.
Did anything distract you?
There was a woman who sneezed. Ordinarily this wouldn't have bothered me, but I've never heard anyone sneeze so loudly! It was worth attending just to witness that. Possible record breaker.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Something for everyone: older songs, modern choral pieces, and kids singing to tapes.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Major Andrew Spivey didn't dig too deep, but got the message across. My summary really can't do it justice.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Matthew 13 (Jesus speaks in parables from a boat on the lake) was the text. Church is a greenhouse. Christians are the plants. Our goal isn't just to grow but to bear fruit. Some of us are seedlings, some are damaged fruit. We all need to grow enough to be taken from the greenhouse and survive in the field.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The children's story was full of surprises. Major Valerie Spivey had several vegetables that she passed out to the children. She said she liked carrots and that they help you see in the dark. "So why are you wearing glasses?" one of the little innocents asked. Then she broke off a piece of celery and some of the juice landed in a little boy's eye. Suddenly the microphone made a sound like a loud burp, and Major Spivey stood up, turned red as a beet, and said, "Excuse me!" Laugh? I nearly wet myself!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was a sense that nobody knew what what going on. What the worship band played and what the overhead projector flashed didn't always coincide. The microphone was unpredictable (see above). Later the overhead guy sat there texting instead of doing his job. Actually the most other-place-ish thing was that when it was time for the worship band and choir to do their part, down they came, thud-thud-thudding their way down the stairs from the balcony. Why? Annoying!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was welcomed again! The guy next to me invited me to stop for a tea. Another person asked me to stop for lunch.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea – strong, hot in a mug. None of those useless little tea cup things. The only difficulty was getting milk and sugar. I had to fight through people chatting at the table and several instrument cases parked on the floor.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I would strongly consider it, although I doubt I would want to wear a uniform. (Some did, dome didn't.)
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I noticed a mission statement in the entrance that mentioned "Joyful Christianity". It certainly was a joyful event.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The little boy getting celery juice in his eye.