Mystery Worshipper: passerby
Church: Liquid Church
Location: Hyatt Hotel, Morristown, New Jersey, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 14 October 2007, 6:30pm
Worship held in the Hyatt Hotel, located in the downtown area of Morristown, specifically in a ballroom in the hotel. This required using the hotel/conference center parking garage, but the church provided helpful greeters and plenty of signs to get worshipers to the right place.
Liquid Church has been in Morristown for seven years and describes itself as "a casual, contemporary Christian church with a compelling vision." According to the church website, the name reflects the belief that New Jersey is "one of the most spiritually thirsty regions in the world". They are mostly friendly, cheerful folks. Those who were "on duty" as greeters were outgoing in a genuine, unobtrusive kind of way. However, others who were not assigned greeting jobs were not interested even in saying hello back to me!
Morristown, in north-central New Jersey, is often called the military capital of the American Revolution due to its strategic importance in the war for independence. It is rich in historic sites commemorating various aspects of the war. The Hyatt Hotel is located on the edge of a residential area that's primarily home to Hispanic immigrants.
Tim Lucas, the lead pastor and founder of the church.
What was the name of the service?Sunday Worship (the third of three Sunday services).
How full was the building?
About 90 per cent full by 6.45 (for the 6.30 service)... they were a late-arriving bunch! Despite the Hispanic demographic of the area, I observed that the crowd was predominantly Caucasian.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, someone greeted me right away by asking my name and giving me a name tag to wear. Everyone wore the same adhesive name tags, not just visitors. Only those assigned to the roles of greeting spoke to me, but the official greeters did a great job.
Was your pew comfortable?
Comfy, padded chairs.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Empty, until after the service began. There was an energetic atmosphere, though, with lively, recorded music and interesting things happening on the screens at front.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening. I invite you all to stand."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The congregation didn't use any books, but Bibles (the New International Version) were available on every seat.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, three guitars and a drum set.
Did anything distract you?
Images on the screen were sometimes distracting, especially when they showed short loops of video.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Happy clappy, no doubt. Clapping began at precisely the moment that worship started! Throughout the service, the atmosphere was very laid back.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
49 minutes! There was a 13 minute intro to the topic, then two verses of scripture were read, then 36 more minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – The sermon was entirely too long, but he did have my attention throughout. The highlight was the concise, well thought out summary in the last four minutes. If it had been a 10 minute sermon, it might have knocked my socks off.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Margins – making breathing room in life for the sake of being healthy and whole (physically, emotionally, relationally, financially, and spiritually). He talked about rest and time for re-creation, with "space to rest, time to heal." The sermon was the first of a new series entitled "Margin: Running on Empty in a 24/7 World."
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The last couple of minutes of the sermon with the concise and even poetic summary. It was general enough to speak directly to each individual, and it also pointed out that each person present was craving some of the same things (rest, breathing room, simplicity).
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The music at the beginning of worship was too much. It was too loud and went on too long.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The greeters had helpful answers to my questions about where to find things. When I just stood around, no one paid any attention to me at all. Then I tried to attract a little attention by standing alone and looking through my "first time visitor gift bag." When someone saw this, he came over and talked with me.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No food or beverages, but the visitor bag did include a chocolate bar.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – It seems like a good "starter church," but not a place that I can imagine nurturing those with deeper faith or yearning for serious food for thought.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. The message had an anti-consumerism undertone, which eventually led to the pastor talking about simplifying life in order to have time and the desire to give of self to others.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The pastor's point about allowing some extra space/time/energy rather than using up all resources and feeling perpetually behind. It took 49 minutes, but he made his point and it will stick.