Braintree Baptist, Braintree, England


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Braintree Baptist
Location: Braintree, England
Date of visit: Thursday, 9 April 2020, 7:00pm

The building

Nineteenth century chapel. Only one shot of the interior was visible on the YouTube broadcast of today’s service. The traditional pulpit is still in place but the preacher sat beneath it.

The church

From their website, they sound active and friendly. From the sermon, I would be surprised if they weren't.

The neighborhood

Braintree is close enough to London to have been a commuter town for most of the 20th century. Fruit and vegetables have traditionally been grown here, mainly to feed London.

The cast

The minister.

What was the name of the service?

Maundy Thursday Service.

How full was the building?

Empty under the present circumstances.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

The minister spoke directly to the camera, in close-up, so you felt personally welcomed.

Was your pew comfortable?


How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Pared down to a minimum, which made the minister's words more impressive. No music. No visual distraction.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Well, welcome to our Maundy service tonight.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

No books, though we were invited to get our own Bibles.

What musical instruments were played?


Did anything distract you?

We were invited to pause the video to get Bibles, bread, wine or juice or water. Apart from these pauses, it was absolutely focussed. The minister's script seemed to be above the camera, giving the impression that he was looking through you to find inspiration.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

The minister was clearly tapping into a source outside himself while at the same time making it feel like a very ordinary conversation. The minister sat beneath the pulpit and spoke directly into the camera for the whole service. He dipped seamlessly in and out of prayer and Bible readings, breaking bread and consecrating (if that's the right word).

Exactly how long was the sermon?

Very hard to say. It really didn't have a beginning or end.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

9 — The minister passed on his message effectively and his directness was almost shocking. With practice at this strange new medium, he could be excellent.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

How horrified you might be, like Peter, if Christ wanted to wash your feet. Many of us find it easier to give than to take. Are we prepared to allow Jesus to wash us? [Then a bit of prayer based on a version of Psalm 139, which appeared on the screen: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart.’] In the gospels, Jesus is always the guest, but here he is the host. He invites us to be guests at his table. [A slice of white bread was then broken, very close to the camera, and a glass of red something (probably juice) offered up. We were invited to eat and drink with the minister. Then, having received, we were invited to think how we can give.] People will know we are Christians if we love one another. Prayer underpins all this. [Prayer suggestions appeared on the screen.] He ended with a blessing.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The minister's conviction.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

There were one or two fluffs, which is understandable, but they broke the flow.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

No chance.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

No coffee.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

10 — I'd certainly visit again virtually. Very unlikely to visit in person.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Impressed that it could bring alive something I have only known as ritual.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

Cutting through the mumbo-jumbo. (And I love mumbo-jumbo.)

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