Mystery Worshipper: New Kid on the Block
Church: Community Church
Location: Derby, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 27 April 2008, 10:30am
They meet at the Riverside Centre on Pride Park in Derby, a multi-purpose, multi-room conference and events venue. The main hall has blue carpeting and a grey metal beamed ceiling. The Centre is available for booking for a variety of functions, but their policy states that Community Church has preference over all other bookings.
Community Church began as part of the house church movement of the 1970s, a time of spiritual revival that led many people to conduct worship services in their homes. Over time these groups pooled together to form the East Midlands Christian Fellowship. From many of these congregations Community Church came into being. They hold several different programs on Sundays that they call "corporate gatherings," as well as smaller group meetings throughout the city during the week. At various times they sponsor introductory evenings at which newcomers are invited to learn more about their activities. Their many other programs are all detailed on their website.
Pride Park is a business complex on the outskirts of Derby. It is the site of Pride Park Stadium, home of the least successful football club in the Premiership in 2008.
A guy who I think was called Tim led the service. The pastor, Mark Mumford, delivered the sermon.
What was the name of the service?Communitychurch.
How full was the building?
The church was chocka (i.e. packed), with stewards having to bring more chairs out for the late arrivals.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Someone said hello to us as we parked the car. A man at the door said hello as we approached. A woman inside the entrance told us how the service would work that day. Then, as we entered the auditorium, another man asked if it was our first time.
Was your pew comfortable?
A comfortable chair cushioned in blue.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was a nice buzz that continued while the leader of the service began talking but died down soon afterwards.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
We missed the beginning of Tim's greeting, as we were trying to get our children settled. But we did hear him say, "A warm welcome to any visitors here today," which was nice if a bit predictable. I did feel he meant it, though!
What books did the congregation use during the service?
They used Bibles and a big screen at the front.
What musical instruments were played?
Guitars, bass, drums, singers.
Did anything distract you?
They have big sheets of fabric draped beneath the ceiling in a wave style. With the blue colour scheme and the ribbed ceiling beams, I felt a little like Jonah in the belly of the whale!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was lively and well done. Lots of music, of course – with a good choice of intimate worship songs, praise songs, some children's songs, some unfamiliar songs that threw me a little but the congregation seemed to get into them.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Pastor Mark told some bad jokes, which I nevertheless laughed at.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was the last in a series called House of Prayer. This one was about purposeful prayer. I expected to have heard it all previously, but Mark really challenged me with some things I had never thought about before. Did you know that when Jesus went to talk to his Father in a solitary place it was always outside? That means he probably never fell asleep when praying in bed or on his lounge settee.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
At the end of the sermon, Mark said that anyone could come to the microphone and lead the congregation in a short prayer. A brave move that really paid off. I really felt God's heart as people poured out their passion for their city. I even cried.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The songs were all played in a very high key, which made them hard to sing. I am a tenor but even I felt the strain on my vocal chords. Mrs New Kid and the other women in church also struggled to reach the high notes.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After a minute or two, a nice couple named John and Esther came and said hello and chatted. Mrs New Kid chatted with the pastor's wife, who I think is named Nesta. Then a nice fellow called Robin introduced himself as we were getting ready to leave.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Disappointing refreshments after the professionalism of the rest of the service. There was pre-made tea, a little milkier than I would have preferred, but nothing to nibble on. Our three-year-old was starting to fidget from hunger, and Nesta (bless her heart) got the refreshments team to find some biscuits for her. There was no interaction with the ladies behind the counter, though, which I think was a shame.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I really enjoyed it, and it made me excited that God was on the move in Derby.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, very much so.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
That they weren't afraid to take a chance and let people get publicly passionate about prayer – that's brilliant!