Mystery Worshipper: Fivesolas
Church: 22nd Street Baptist
Location: Tucson, Arizona, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 3 June 2012, 10:45am
The outside of the building is slump block, with a center section that has a tall pitched roof. Inside is light wood paneling and vaulted ceiling retrofitted with stage lights and screens. Stained glass windows ring the sanctuary; the front and rear are crosses surrounded by blue. Single-seat attached chairs match the carpet, which looked brown in the dimly lit interior.
There were a significant number of people with various disabilities attending the service developmental, physical, etc. All seemed very much embraced and integrated into the social life of the body. I wondered if the church has a special outreach for special needs, but I couldn't find anything about it on their website. I did learn, however, that they have a student ministry, an Awana group ("reaching children with the gospel of Christ") and Bible study groups.
When the church was originally built, the property was outside the city limits, but now it is on a major six-lane street and surrounded by strip malls and fast food restaurants. There is a high school in the next block, and lots of side streets with single-family houses.
The Revd Ashley Evans, senior pastor, was the teaching pastor. Worship leader was the Revd Aaron Petre, pastor of worship and youth.
What was the name of the service?Blended Worship Service.
How full was the building?
The sanctuary was at least three-quarters full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
There were three official greeters standing in the doorway. One of them said hello and handed me a bulletin.
Was your pew comfortable?
The individual padded chairs were quite comfy.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Before the service began, there was a moderate amount of greeting and friendly chatting, as people came into the sanctuary and found their seats.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Here we go!"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books were used during the service, but there were paperback Bibles available in the pew rack in the New Living translation.
What musical instruments were played?
There were three guitars played and one drum set. The drum set and drummer were encased in a clear acrylic enclosure.
Did anything distract you?
I found the worship leader somewhat distracting. He was over-excited and loud at some points, exuding almost a rock-star-like persona. It felt incongruous with the age demographic of the congregation, which was up to 50 per cent senior citizens.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship music was upbeat and consisted of praise songs led by the worship team. Although the songs were in the "pop" contemporary style, none were current tunes. I would estimate they were popular a decade or so ago.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – The pastor's style was friendly and folksy. He used many stories and sometimes humor to illustrate his points.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The topic of the sermon was prudence, specifically from the book of Proverbs. The pastor listed various actions and qualities of a prudent person, each based on a verse in Proverbs. Two examples of prudence given were not to believe everything you hear, and to handle correction graciously. There was another example also, which I'll mention in a moment.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Having grown up in a Baptist church, I was moved to hear the closing hymn of invitation: "Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling." One of the lines says, "Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon, pardon for you and for me" words I need to hear and never tire of!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The pastor mentioned another example of prudence, namely the preparations he had made for Y2K. I cringed.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I sat on a bench in the narthex. It was awkward, and I felt invisible.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Unfortunately, the coffee time was in between Sunday school and the service, so I missed out. There was a spaghetti dinner taking place after the service, though, and tickets were available for a nominal fee.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – The upbeat worship experience hadn't prepared me for being ignored afterward.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
I will remember the beautiful stained glass window at the front, because they are not commonly found in Baptist churches.