Mystery Worshipper: Nengscoz
Church: St Barnabas
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Date of visit: Sunday, 13 March 2011, 7:00pm
The St Barnabas church building withstood the 22 February 2011 earthquake and aftershocks relatively well, but it has not yet been certified safe for occupancy. Services are being held in the church hall until further notice. On the day of my visit, the inside of the hall was rather stark, with lots of wood, although it was decorated with children's artwork and a beautiful inscription of the Beatitudes.
Their many ministries are well described on their website. Of special note is the update section of the website, which lists areas where help is needed. Today's service was aimed solely at young people aged 17-30, although there were a couple of gatecrashers from an older age group. About 70 per cent of the congregation were female.
The church is situated in Fendalton, one of the more upper-class suburbs of Christchurch. Fendalton survived the earthquake relatively unscathed, with only localised damage.
The Revd Mark Chamberlain, vicar, celebrated the eucharist. The Revd Chris Spark preached.
What was the name of the service?Antioch. I'm not sure why, although the fact that the original city of Antioch was eventually abandoned due, in part, to repeated earthquakes is a touch ironic.
How full was the building?
The building was about one-quarter full, about 30 or so people. However, this seemed to be the expected number, as all except three seats were full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was encouraged to take a seat as I arrived.
Was your pew comfortable?
We were sitting on padded chairs that were comfortable for the duration of the service but would not have been if the service had lasted longer.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The atmosphere was charged. People were there to worship and they were excited about it.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Please sit down. We have a few announcements to go through."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. The hymns, responses from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer, Bible reading (unspecified version), and prayers were on a projector.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, guitar, bass guitar, drums.
Did anything distract you?
The rubrics of when to sit, when to stand, etc. were on the projector but were also immediately vocalised by the leader. This seemed slightly redundant.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The balance of a traditional service outline and modern music style meant for an accessible service. Only two arms were waved during singing. The priests were in robes and clerical collars.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The Revd Chris Spark was friendly and likeable. He used available technology well to help keep interest in what he was saying. I particularly liked the visual prompts to aid the sermon, such as a picture of a mirror to signify that we should reflect on our own actions.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was based on the teachings of Luke 6: Do not be hypocritical and judge others. Yes, there was widespread looting following the earthquake and aftershocks. We mustn't condone that, but perhaps we should think twice before condemning it. (He seemed unaware of, or at least did not mention, the "Shoot Christchurch Looters" pages on Facebook.)
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Holy communion celebrated by a robed vicar at an evening service.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The confusion of lining up for communion: the band and computers were in the way.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After about 30 seconds someone pointed out the food. Then someone else came and talked to me before I could even reach the food.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Nibbly snack food was available, including fruit without sugar, as well as hot drinks and bottled water. As it is Lent, I was pleased to see a variety of foods available.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – The atmosphere was welcoming and comfortable, even with a small congregation. I like the way they had modernised a traditional service, yet still kept the tradition.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it made me glad that there are young people proud to be Christian and are able to express themselves in a service that is relevant to them.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The fact that we took communion even though it was an evening service.