Mystery Worshipper: Nengscoz
Church: St. Mary's
Location: Mount Maunganui, New Zealand
Date of visit: Sunday, 12 June 2011, 10:00am
The church building is modern and stylish. A white interior with steeply sloping roof sets off the cross-shaped window by the altar. Well designed tuku tuku panels (traditional Maori weaving) are mounted on one wall, serving as a reminder of our bicultural heritage.
The church is one of two churches in the Mount Maunganui Anglican parish. It has strong connections with local rest homes and retirement villages and offers outreach programmes for the elderly community.
Mount Maunagui is a well established township based on a tombolo which joins the mainland to Mauao, a tall mountain. The tombolo shelters the estuary of the Wairoa River and the city of Tauranga. Known for its warm climate and beautiful beach, the area attracts many, from retirees to surfers.
The Revd Geoff Crawshaw, priest-in-charge, led the service. The vicar's warden, Shirley Shilling, was in charge of herding the children.
What was the name of the service?Holy Communion followed by morning tea
How full was the building?
The building was about two-thirds full with approximately 80 people present.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was greeted at the door, managed to miss getting a visitor name badge somehow, and was greeted multiple times during the exchange of the peace.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was warm, squishy and very comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Excited, chatty and friendly. A large proportion of the congregation were wearing red for the Pentecost service and they were comparing their outfits.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to our Pentecost service. It's a children's service so will be slightly different to usual. Don't tell me afterwards 'That's not how we usually do things' because today is different."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books were used, just a pretty snazzy PowerPoint presentation that included passages from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer.
What musical instruments were played?
Electric keyboard (effects included), harmonica, tin whistle and a recorder.
Did anything distract you?
The awesome PowerPoint, a good use of images and animations to illustrate different points of the service and a very effective set of pictures to encourage us in our prayers.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was vibrant but traditional. All songs were very upbeat (I don't know if this was specifically because it was a children's service) but still hymns. The service followed a traditional order of hymns, confession, readings, sermon, peace and communion. We were asked to wave our service leaflets in the air to signify the descent of the Holy Spirit as the gospel was read.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes, of which a good three minutes was spent with the children running round the church finding flames attached to the wall.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The sermon was aimed at kids so was a bit disjointed by them joining in. The priest was friendly and welcoming to the children's input and they seemed to have a blast.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Looking at the symbols of fire and wind in relation to Pentecost and how it is important to recognise the Holy Spirit in your life.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Having such enthusiastic children and seeing the entire congregation join in with actions of wind, fire and praise during the gospel reading.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
That sinking feeling when you realise that 90 per cent of the congregation are in a completely different age bracket from you.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was approached by many very kind people, including the acting priest, and welcomed into the community. I was sent home with multiple pamphlets about the church, the community and the parish.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The tea was slightly weak but there was a good spread of food, including a slice of birthday cake, decorated by the kids, to celebrate the birthday of the Christian church.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – As much as I enjoyed the service and the vibrant community, I would like to worship somewhere where I can make friends my own age.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, I was glad that everyone in the congregation were able to have fun while worshipping. The whole church felt alive with praise.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Watching all the octogenarians waving their service sheets around to join in with the actions of creating "flames" during the gospel reading.