Mystery Worshipper: Chris Teean
Church: Cristiana Evangélica
Location: La Gomera, Canary Islands
Date of visit: Sunday, 4 October 2009, 6:00pm
The church meets on an outside terrace by the three storey clubhouse at El Balcon de Santa Ana, one of the properties of the Holiday Property Bond, a timeshare management organisation. Constructed some eight years ago, the building houses a reception area, restaurant, bar, and leisure facilities, and looks out over swimming pools to the Atlantic Ocean.
Services are held on the first and third Sunday of the month and feature visiting preachers, the aim being to give holidaymakers an opportunity to worship in English. It was only by pure chance that I saw a notice earlier in the day that read: "Church Service. Come and sing your favourite hymns. Everyone welcome."
El Balcon de Santa Ana is built on a high cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean near Playa de Santiago on the island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands. It is a paradise of villas, apartments, pools and leisure facilities fronted by extensive botanical gardens.
Barbara Clayton, a retired nurse and missionary.
What was the name of the service?Church Service.
How full was the building?
We were outside and there were 11 of us in the congregation.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. When I approached the group, Barbara welcomed me with: "Come and join us if you want to praise our Lord Jesus Christ."
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a comfortable rattan bar chair.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet, friendly chat.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"We'll begin with a reading of Psalm 100."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Complete Mission Praise and The New Testament with Psalms.
What musical instruments were played?
A keyboard, played effortlessly by Barbara.
Did anything distract you?
The sun was shining in my eyes.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Although we didn't actually clap and dance, the worship was definitely veering in that direction. Barbara bubbled over with her effusive prayers of praise and thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ. We recited the Lord's Prayer, after which Barbara asked us where we were from and told us a little about herself. At one point I am sure she mentioned she was nine years old in 1933, which, by my calculation, makes her 85! She read us passages from St Mark's gospel and the first epistle of St John. She played the keyboard with effortless precision and sang in a clear, sweet soprano voice. Apart from "Amazing Grace" I wasn't familiar with the other four hymns, but they were easy to pick up.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Barbara spoke clearly without any notes. It seemed to come straight from her heart.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
She related to her earlier reading from Mark about the blind Bartimaeus, whose sight Jesus restored because Bartimaeus had so much faith in him. After that Bartimaeus became a follower of Jesus, who is our Saviour and the Light. Barbara loved blind Bartimaeus because of his faith and trust in Jesus.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Just listening to Barbara preach and pray so fervently. She absolutely radiated her love for Jesus.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
We could have done without the loud pop music that emanated from the restaurant above us. Luckily our service was drawing to a close.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We all conversed about our own backgrounds and helped Barbara to pack up her keyboard and books into various bags. Then we carried her bags back to her car.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I had a most congenial glass of wine back on the balcony of my apartment.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I am looking forward to repeating this experience when I next come here on holiday.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Undoubtedly. This was a new experience for me to encounter someone with such an overflowing and infectious love of Jesus Christ.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
That amazing bubbling 85-year-old lady whizzing off in her little red car, probably singing her heart out proclaiming her love for Jesus.