Mystery Worshipper: The Yam Yam
Church: City Church
Location: Worcester, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 15 May 2011, 10:15am
They meet in Christopher Whitehead Language College (the local state school), but their day-to-day work is based in a building they own in Barbourne, north of the city centre, which I happened to stumble on while out for a stroll. That building (which I photographed – see above) is a fine Victorian villa in an area of large Regency and Victorian houses.
Founded in 1980, they are an evangelical and charismatic church, part of Salt and Light Ministries. Their values include a passion to follow Jesus and every-member ministry (which is something many new evangelical churches aspire to). They also want to foster good links with other churches (which hasn't always been the case with the new churches). They are involved with a number of activities, including the marriage course, Alpha, English classes, and a fellowship group for retired people.
Worcester is one of Engand's historic towns, still economically successful and expanding. It includes many historic buildings, although much damage was done in the 1960s and 70s – the work of which the city council hopes to sweep away in coming years. Christopher Whitehead Language College is located in the St John's area, west of the River Severn (which splits the town), a quieter area with an alarming number of un-let shops.
Rick Thomas (former leader but now working to develop the church's wider ministry) led the service. Andrea Wharton, another member of the leadership team, preached.
What was the name of the service?Sunday Meeting.
How full was the building?
I would estimate there were about 130 present.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The school has two entrances from the road: a right way in and a wrong way in. We went the wrong way and spent ages wandering around the complex trying locked doors. But once we managed to find the right way in, yes. A welcomer shook my hand and asked me if I had been there before. She said she would speak to me afterward, but that did not happen – mainly because various other people were speaking to me.
Was your pew comfortable?
Plastic school chair – OK.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Chatty, relaxed. People continued arriving while we were singing a worship song.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Well, good morning! If someone asked you to show them God, what would you show them?"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. The words of the songs were on a screen. People brought their own Bibles.
What musical instruments were played?
Band: keyboard, two guitars, cello, bass, drums.
Did anything distract you?
Some bicycles were suspended from the ceiling. I think they were an inspirational installation for pupils (unless they had been placed there after being confiscated).
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Spirit-led and charismatic. No formal liturgy. Modern worship music. Prayer ministry (someone was slain in the Spirit). Congregation speaking out their praise or otherwise contributing if they felt moved to do so. There was a flag-waver. He moved very well (I would have knocked one of the bicycles from the roof onto someone's head) and you could hear the whoosh of the flag through the air. Mrs Yam said it was very powerful, that it made her think of the Holy Spirit and gave her something to focus on during worship.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
I forgot my watch, but approximately 30 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Andrea Wharton has a slightly loquacious style, but this is deceptive. Her sermon was packed with good things. She used the example of her mother to illustrate her points. (Her mother died recently, and so I give her credit for mentioning her at what must have been a difficult time.)
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Her text was Romans 12 (we should be a living sacrifice, serving God, hating evil, and loving what is good). Worship is two things: words and actions. Singing is part of it, but our whole life should be worship. (Andrea's mother, for example, was a terrible singer but a terrific worshipper!) We were created so that we might worship, but what do we worship? People are not made to be worshipped; only God is.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
At the conclusion of the sermon, Andrea read out a long list of adjectives and superlatives for God. She then asked the congregation to read a few words of praise from the Psalms. Many did. It was, well, heavenly.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Salt and Light churches, like many new churches, borrow buildings for meetings. Church buildings are a blessing and a curse. Not having one saves the bother of upkeep appeals, but having one does help with a sense of identity and, well, finding the service.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Someone I knew saw me and we had a long chat. I spoke to some other people too, as did Mrs Yam. It was very welcoming.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea in a plastic cup. Not sure if it was fairly traded.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – This style of worship isn't for everyone. The Yams liked it and felt it was a Spirit-breathed service. Good children's groups too. The Yams, however, are probably Anglicans.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Bicycles on the roof and flag-waving. Maybe they should combine the two.