They meet at the Myton School, a 1970s style comprehensive school built on a greenfield site between Leamington Spa and Warwick. The church meets in the main school hall and uses some classrooms for children’s groups and a canteen area for refreshments afterwards.
They have a wide range of activities well described on their website, including men’s, women’s, seniors’ and youth groups, home groups, and a group for those with learning disabilities. Their social activities include breakfasts, picnics, and strolls in the park.
Warwick is a town on the River Avon about 11 miles south of Coventry. A fire in 1694 destroyed most of the medieval town; what stands today dates primarily from the 17th and 18th centuries. Myton School is located in a very leafy area. A number of folk mentioned how hard it is to get outsiders along by way of ‘passing trade’ as folk would need to be invited specifically to find it.
A middle aged gentleman led the service and another one preached.
What was the name of the service?Today's Service.
How full was the building?
There were about 220 chairs set out – hard plastic, designed for secondary school pupils. They were about 90 to 95 per cent occupied. It seemed a typical white middle class prosperous congregation.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. Several folk came up to me or turned round to greet me and shook me by the hand to welcome me and to ask where I was from. No books were given out – I arrived a little too early to be welcomed at the door – but there was a pile of service notice sheets and I took one.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a rather hard plastic school pupil's chair. But we stood up for the worship songs so one did not get too numb!
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Considering there were over 200 people of all ages from the very elderly to four newborn babies, it was relatively relaxed and not too noisy. The music group practiced a bit, relatively quietly.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
‘OK. Good morning, everybody. We're gonna make a start. There's plenty of seats in the front!’
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Everything was projected onto a screen at the front. Bibles were available if folk wanted them, and an opportunity was given to put hands up to be brought them. The Bible passages were projected onto the screen.
What musical instruments were played?
Electronic keyboard, two acoustic guitars, bass guitar, drum set, two singers.
Did anything distract you?
The inevitable mobile phone went off! The building was very hot – some folk opened side windows during the service in the school hall but no one used poles to open the line of upper windows.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Modern gentle charismatic with quite a few hymns – mainly modern but also ‘Great is thy faithfulness’ in the traditional form. There was a good undergirding of musical leading but not over-bearing considering the composition of instruments. The preacher led into potent reflective silence at the end of the sermon and the leader of the service led prepared prayers at various points.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
30 minutes – I was told later that this is the normal required length.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 — The preacher was very easy to listen to and the sermon did not feel like half an hour. There were personal anecdotes to illustrate points and a clear structure.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was the second in a series on the Book of Exodus. We looked at chapters 3 to 6 but focused on Moses and the call at the burning bush. There was a clear structure: (1) What are your expectations? (2) Shaping expectations: Israel's reaction, God's reaction, our reaction. There was a note of gentle challenge. Christ and the cross were alluded to often, but it was a little lacking in what is going on in today's world.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Some of the reprises during the hymns – ‘Behold our God,’ ‘Man of sorrows, Lamb of God’ and ‘Sovereign in the mountain air’ – were very atmospheric.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The temperature of the hall detracted from being able to relax in a pleasant environment. There were too many hymns sung one after the other – ‘less’ may have been ‘more’ in terms of being prepared to receive the challenge of the Word.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The preacher and the keyboard player both came to greet me and recognised that I was a visitor, but very few other people spoke to me as I hung around in the entrance area and in the canteen. It was disappointing that so many folk just homed in on greeting long-term friends. I wonder if I had been there with a spouse and children if more would have greeted me. It was very much a family-orientated church.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea, coffee, or weak orange squash were available. The coffee tasted quite pleasant and was not fairly traded – I asked afterwards and was told that they had served fair trade coffee at one time but people had complained about the taste. No biscuits were on offer – I was told that the crumbs are too messy to clear up afterwards.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 — I have visited this church sporadically and very occasionally over the years. I only go because I am visiting friends who belong there – I find the general lack of welcome from the regulars very disappointing. I am not sure that older, single people are the norm.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, and to be challenged to put faith into practice in everyday life was very good.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The hot hall!