Mystery Worshipper: The Old Man from Scene 24
Church: Go Church
Location: Horsham, West Sussex, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 19 August 2012, 10:00am
They meet at the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee School, a school for children with severe, complex or profound and multiple learning difficulties. It's a very modern and fairly attractive building. The inside is a rather plain room, with a table, chairs, microphones, and musical instruments.
It has the feel of a supercharged charismatic church. They are tightly focused on the Great Commission, so a heavy emphasis is placed on miraculous healings, signs and wonders. Their calendar lists prayer meetings; home groups where (again quoting from their website) "individuals will find a caring family providing mutual support and accountability;" and events featuring guest speakers. The part of their website dedicated to community involvement states: "This part of the site is not operational as yet."
The school is off Comptons Lane, which is a quiet suburb of Horsham near a couple of secondary schools.
The minister in charge was Gary Jenkins. Rex (no surname given) was leading worship, and Ian Andrews was the guest speaker.
What was the name of the service?Sunday Teaching.
How full was the building?
Mostly full, with about 60 people present.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was greeted as I walked in and was handed a card I could fill in if I needed prayer.
Was your pew comfortable?
Blue plastic chair, which wasn't uncomfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I arrived on time, but the service didn't start until about 20 minutes past the hour. This was due to their relaxed approach to timing a theme, I would discover, that continued throughout the service.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning!" followed by an announcement that those wishing to smoke could go out through the main door something I was later very grateful for.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A projector was used to beam the words of the worship songs onto the wall. No books were used in the service.
What musical instruments were played?
An electric keyboard and guitar.
Did anything distract you?
The biggest distraction occurred after the praise and worship, which had already gone on for a whole hour. Someone named Rosemary got up to deliver a message from God. God's message (as channeled by Rosemary) consisted of 15 minutes of random snippets about winning races, eagles soaring, not being able to understand the Bible, positive and negative electrical currents, being "plugged into" God, hidden manna, and the "report of God." Utter nonsense.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was excruciating. We sang only five happy-clappy songs over a whole hour, as the leaders thought it best to repeat choruses over and over again rather than to venture into new material. One song had a grand total of ten words to it, but lasted as many minutes. After 30 minutes of this, I noticed that half the congregation had given up and sat down, but on and on the music went! After 40 minutes I took advantage of the invitation to slip out for a smoke, but when I got back they were still at it! Even the preacher mentioned how the worship went "on and on." The Bible was not read from, or even mentioned, once in the almost three hour ordeal, except for a passing reference by Rosemary.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
After the hour-long repetition of five songs and the 15 minute ramble from Rosemary, I was hoping for a short sermon. My hopes were dashed it lasted 60 minutes! And after it was over, Rosemary got up and started up again for another five minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
1 – Toward the end of the sermon, Ian Andrews asked who in the congregation, when speaking in tongues, favoured the letter S or K. A few people raised their hands. He then asked one lady who had raised her hand to stand up and speak in tongues, but to favour the letter L. The poor lady look horrified but obliged. He then asked someone to interpret what she had said, which somebody did. He repeated this several times.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
I really would like to summarize it in a nutshell, but all I can do is list the various things he talked about: (1) entering the "glory realm" by travelling from "here to there, to there;" (2) speaking in tongues; (3) God covering people in gold dust; (4) jewels appearing from the floor; (5) being questioned by God about white rooms; (6) a woman who was gifted with the ability to "see green" on people who were suffering from problems with the lungs. And so on if I listed them all, I'm afraid I'd be accused of making them up.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The five minutes I spent smoking outside.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The worship that dragged on and on. Rosemary's ramblings. The lengthy sermon that focused on weird and bizarre tales of supernatural occurrences. These were all pretty bad, but the absolute worst of it was the preacher picking people out of the congregation, getting them to speak in tongues starting with letters of his choosing, and then getting others to interpret what they said. It was insane!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Gary Jenkins, the minister in charge, declared, "We're not done yet! We will now spend time speaking in tongues." I'd been there almost three hours. I found an open door at the back and took my tongue and the rest of me out of there!
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I haven't a clue.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
0 – The fourth century church historian Eusebius wrote in Book 4 of his Ecclesiastical History of a certain officer of the court named Basilides: "Under the pretext of unspeakable mysteries, he invented monstrous fables, and carried the fictions of his impious heresy quite beyond bounds." It looks like Basilides isn't done with the world yet.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
That was Christianity?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Must I remember anything? If one insists, I suppose it would be the preacher's obsession with people being miraculously covered in gold dust.