Mystery Worshipper: CI 1971
Church: Moordown Baptist
Location: Bournemouth, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 18 June 2006, 6:30pm
A 1970s-style pebble dashed building set back from the road. The exterior is rather plain, but inside there is a large airy meeting area.
An active, caring congregation that sponsors numerous social, religious and educational activities all listed on their website. I noticed a few learning disabled adults in the congregation, which added to the community feel.
Bournemouth is a resort town on the south coast of England, popular with holiday makers due to its warm climate and fine long beach. The church is set in a largely residential area.
The Revd Gary Benfold, pastor.
What was the name of the service?Evening Service.
How full was the building?
About two-thirds full – pretty good for a hot sticky evening!
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was met at the door by a happy smiling face who welcomed me heartily. Several older members of the congregation came and asked me if I was visiting. One gentleman said he hoped I would enjoy the service. Interesting, though – nobody under 60 spoke to me although my age group is more young than old!
Was your pew comfortable?
Mostly wooden bench-style pews with a back rest and thin base cushion. Fine for the length of service. There were also free-standing chairs available toward the front, which looked pretty comfy!
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Friendly, relaxed, friends greeting each other. Prayer pointers and a church diary for the coming week were projected onto the wall – this added to the family atmosphere.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening, and welcome on this Lord's Day evening."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymns were projected onto the wall but also available in books at the pews.
What musical instruments were played?
Piano, electric organ, guitars, flutes, and light drumming during some songs.
Did anything distract you?
A small child at the back of the church was playing with a toy that had extremely squeaky wheels. And there was a slight aroma of an unemptied bin filtering through from the kitchen.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Rather traditional Baptist, with a mix of traditional hymns plus a couple of choruses sung through once. Not charismatic in style.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Pastor Gary's style was empathetic and definitely not wishy-washy. He said it like it was!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The pastor took as his text Exodus 20:7, the third commandment. That commandment is not just about swearing. If we state we are doing things in the Lord's name that are not biblical, then we are blaspheming. Don't be careless when you use the name of our Lord.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The friendliness of the senior members of this congregation was second to none. I felt really welcomed by them even though I'm not in their age group. The sermon gave me a new angle on an oft-heard theme.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I didn't bring a Bible with me and none was available. I would have liked to have had the text in front of me as Pastor Gary was preaching. And I felt a bit awkward taking notes on the sermon when no one else seemed to be.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
One very friendly lady asked if I would like to stay for coffee and apologised profusely for not being able to show me the way herself, as she had to shoot off. But she introduced me to someone else who explained how to get to the coffee lounge.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The coffee appeared hot, although I don't drink it myself. I didn't hear anyone complaining!
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – I prefer a more charismatic approach, but that's purely personal taste. There's lots going on at this church. Holidaymakers on the lookout for a warm, friendly church in a seaside town would do well to visit Moordown Baptist.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. The welcome was there and the sermon hit the spot.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The friendliness of the older generation.