Mystery Worshipper: Joyful Days
Church: Hall Lane Methodist
Location: Whitwick, Leicestershire, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 30 September 2012, 10:30am
A brick structure, built in 1967. The aim was to build the church hall and then the church. They ran out of money once they built the hall. They meet in the hall, which looks and feels like a place of worship. (I was far too nervous to take a picture inside so please take my word for it.)
On their website they call themselves an active church with an active social calendar. There is a lunch club, ladies' fellowship, toddlers' group, Sunday school, coffee groups, etc.
The village of Whitwick is situated partly over the coalfields of north west Leicestershire. It is sometimes called the Village of Three Cities, as the City of Three Waters, the City of Dan, and the City of Hockley exist as official postal addresses within the village. When coal mining was in its heyday, no fewer than 39 licensed establishments thrived at one time or another to satisfy the thirsty workers. Most of these, however, are long gone, along with the collieries. Hall Lane Methodist Church is situated on the outskirts of the village, on the edge of the town of Coalville. Its a lovely village with an annual scarecrow festival.
The Revd Lynda Coates, minister, and worship leader Natalie Missenden.
What was the name of the service?Communion Service.
How full was the building?
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. A couple standing at the door welcomed me personally.
Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfortable soft blue individual wide chairs. I could have sat in the chair for hours. Normally the chairs are in straight rows, but for this service the chairs were arranged in groups of five in a half moon shape facing the front.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I arrived at 10.28 and they were singing "Be still", which was quietly sung and brought on a peaceful atmosphere.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to the service today. Today is Back to Church Sunday."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Methodist Worship Book and Methodist Hymn Book (1979).
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
A momentary distraction when the minister said that the chairs had been arranged that way so we could move from group to group to talk to each other. "Oh dear, do I have to?" I thought to myself.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Exactly how long was the sermon?
There was not a sermon as such. It was more a series of short addresses.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – The Revd Mrs Coates was filled with the Spirit and she paused and emphasised words that she wanted us to remember.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
No sermon given; it was a series of short addresses. Some of the topics covered were: how there are storms in our lives; what sustains us through the storms; what builds us up. Between each address we spoke in small groups. The minister said, "I know all of my church members and they have let me share and help in their storms in their lives."
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
In our small groups we picked our favourite hymn to share with the congregation. The aim was for us to pick one hymn to sing. The preacher quickly realised there was a problem: we wanted four different hymns! She thought quickly on her feet and said, "Lets sing one verse of each of the four hymns." That was like heaven to me.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Just that I was awfully nervous being a Mystery Worshipper.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I met many members of the congregation, who were friendly and invited me to stay for coffee. As soon as the service ended I was asked, "Do you think we are a welcoming church?" I was unsure what to say, as I was Mystery Worshipping after all. The person asking the question then added, "We worry about how people experience our church from a newcomer's perspective." So I told her as best I could that I thought it was a welcoming church.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
In the style of a well known brand of instant coffee. There were biscuits also.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – The congregation were spread across a wide age range. The music was good and the people were friendly.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The minsters style and genuine sense of caring for her congregation.