Mystery Worshipper: Liv4ever
Church: Grace Church
Location: Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 24 May 2009, 10:00am
Grace Church meets at the former Ward Theater, an old cinema whose owner sold it to the church in 2000 for $100. The exterior is that of your typical mid-20th century movie house: a symmetrical building with pink and red stone facing and a triangular marquee. The inside has almost an industrial feel to it, with exposed metal beams in the ceiling, exposed brick walls, and a cement floor with no carpeting. The congregation has outgrown the theater, however, and is currently looking for new space. Among the options they are considering is a former restaurant.
They appear to be very much into children, sponsoring Baby Church (two-on-one infant care by volunteers) and other such groups for older toddlers, a summer camping trip, and winter retreat for junior and senior high school students. They also believe in the power of small groups to form strong personal and spiritual relationships. They hold a Saturday evening as well as Sunday morning service, the latter being broadcast via local television. Men's and women's prayer groups meet at various times during the week.
Mount Pleasant is a small city about an hour's drive north of Lansing. It is home to Central Michigan University as well as to the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, owned and operated by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. The church is located very near the university.
Barry Flanders, pastor for leadership and teaching, supported by a worship team. The speaker was referred to only as Pastor Scott; he may have been Scott Koefoed, pastor for teaching, office operations, counseling and video broadcast.
What was the name of the service?Morning Worship.
How full was the building?
The old Ward Theater could accommodate 800 moviegoers in its heyday; its present capacity is rated at 277 people. And it was about 70 per cent full. Over half the congregation was made up of people under 25. There were also a lot of foreign exchange students, mostly from China.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A lady wished me good morning as she handed me a church flyer.
Was your pew comfortable?
I was sad to see that the old theater seats had been replaced with chairs, but the chairs were still very comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was a late coming crowd, so it was quite empty at first. Those who did arrive on time were busy talking with friends over coffee and bagels. The lights were set to low, giving it a coffee house feel.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Um ... OK ... Let's, um ... let's all try this. Um ... let's all try holding our hands up like this."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
No hymn books and no Bibles. The scripture verses were projected onto a huge screen so you could follow along.
What musical instruments were played?
A keyboard, three guitars and a drum set. Also there was a worship leader and a couple of backup singers.
Did anything distract you?
The air conditioner worked really well ... maybe too well. Also there was this guy who kept talking and shaking people's hands all through the first worship song. I thought this to be quite rude. Much to my surprise, that guy later turned out to be Pastor Scott.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Really laid back. You would think that a bunch of college aged kids would be more animated. There was a little hand clapping and a few hands raised during praise and worship. I do wonder if the worship leader could have done more actually to lead worship, instead of just performing.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Pastor Scott has a soft, almost teaching like manner to him. The flyers given to us when we walked in the door were to be used to follow along with the sermon. He made some really good points, except it was way too much information all at once. I would have spread the message over a couple of Sundays so as to allow more of it to sink in. He read from many books of the Bible, like Deuteronomy, Exodus, Hebrews, Psalms and others. Yes, all in the same sermon.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was Memorial Day weekend, so Pastor Scott talked about how, as we remember the sacrifices made by our fellow man, we should also remember how our heavenly Father sacrificed his Son for us. He challenged us to remember Christ in the past, present, and future.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I love Hillsong! So when the worship team did a song by Hillsong, I was pleased. Actually, I liked most of the music that the worship team used.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The last part of the service seemed more like a church meeting than a worship service as Pastor Barry gave us updates on the current building projects. It was nice to see, however, that the church is growing, and is in need of a new building.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Actually, a couple of nice gentlemen came up to me after the service and we had a nice talk. It was the usual "Where do you work? Do you have any kids? What brings you here?" kind of talk. But it was fun.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Great! What little I had. I guess I talked too long, because by the time I made it to the coffee it was almost all gone. So I only had half a cup. Tea was also provided, but I passed on the tea and hit a local coffee shop on the way home.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I really liked this church, but since I am quite active in my current church (and loving it) I will stay where I am.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes! The thing I loved most was seeing all the foreign exchange students from China learning and growing in Christ. Actually, just seeing so many young Christ followers in one church service was a real treat.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Going to church in an old movie theater.