Mystery Worshipper: Harriet M. Welsch
Church: Woodmen Valley Chapel
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
Date of visit: Saturday, 22 April 2006, 6:00pm
The chapel is reminescent of a retreat site lots of wood, rock rolls, trees, rustic pathways outside leading to out-buildings.
I think there are two "campuses" that meet at the same time there is a large screen that sometimes features a leader at the "eastern campus" and we watch that person, then our "live" person or worship team takes over.
It's in northwest Colorado Springs, near the Air Force Academy. The American Discovery Trail that spans the length of the United States is a stone's throw to the east of the church campus.
Matthew Heard, senior pastor. He wore jeans and a dress shirt – very relaxed.
What was the name of the service?Rockrimmon Community Saturday Evening Service.
How full was the building?
Practically full. There were only a few empty seats, but we didn't seem to be uncomfortably squeezed together.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was handed a bulletin at the door. At the beginning of the service we were told to greet people around us. I shook three hands and told people my name. One of the three people introduced herself.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was dang comfortable! Cushioned on the back and the butt. Nice!
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Pre-service featured a video about a "basket" ministry that everyone was watching when I walked in five minutes early. It was eerily devoid of conversation. Everyone was paying attention. I'm the type to talk over commercials. I didn't tonight.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening and welcome to Woodmen Valley Chapel" this came from a man on the giant screen at the other campus. It kind of freaked me out. Then the "real" pastor got up after the screen guy made announcements and said: "So how are you guys? Recovered from Easter?"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books. The songs lyrics were on two other big screens (smaller than the BIG screen). There were Bibles in the pews, offering envelopes, and forms to fill out if you were new.
What musical instruments were played?
Lots. Keyboard and piano, two electric guitars, one acoustic guitar, a bass, bongo drums, drum set. Four singers.
Did anything distract you?
A few things. One was this weird candle thingy right in the middle of the stage. It was like a tic-tac-toe board, only there were twelve squares with a lit candle inside each square. Kind of a candle Hollywood Squares. There were also two screens that flashed numbers, such as 609022, now and then. I'm thinking the babies in the nursery were assigned numbers. But six digits? How many babies were in the nursery? Wow! I was also distracted by the big screen when it showed video from the other campus. Another oddly distracting thing was this morphing-type video of Jesus changing from one artist rendering to another while we sang "Fairest Lord Jesus". On the one hand, it was kind of cool. On the other hand, I kept thinking of Michael Jackson's "Black and White" video on MTV.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship music and singing were phenomenal. It was almost perfect. Most people just sang, some raised their hands or rocked. The music was great and the volume was incredibly loud. Incredibly. The decibel level was what our parents warned us about when we cranked up our Walkmen. "You'll be deaf by 30!" they'd rant. At Woodmen, they'll be deaf by 25. However, I'm not complaining. I crank my iPod even at age 45. The worship leaders were visiting from Florida, so I don't know if the regular leaders are any different on other weeks. We sang four songs: two were contemporary, and two were hymns done in a contemporary way.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – It seemed too long, maybe because the senior pastor talked too slowly for me. He had too many pregnant pauses. I like a fast talker. He said after 40 minutes that he was going to go overtime because he wanted us to get the point. At one point, he lay on the floor to illustrate a point (lying in sawdust in an icehouse). He sat on the steps many times while talking. He put his hand in front of his mouth several times. He walked back and forth. He was very gentle and soothing.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He was introducing his new theme for the next months on the Book of John. He introduced John and talked about why he wrote his gospel. No scripture was read in the service until we were 15 minutes into the sermon, and then only one verse (John 20:21 the risen Jesus appears to the apostles).
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The loud worship music done so well I wish we'd had more of it.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I think the morphing Jesus was a little hellish. Maybe that's me. I kept thinking I was hallucinating. The big screen and flashing to the other campus was disconcerting. I hated it. I'm like: where is that man? Who is that man? It freaked me out.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I stood there and people walked past me. I saw a student from the school I work at and we greeted each other. Otherwise, people looked at me but said nothing. I'm not the most outgoing person. Maybe people thought I didn't want to talk. But I tried to look friendly and social.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Nothing to eat or drink. And I was starving. After all, service started at six o'clock and the sermon was long ... here it was eight o'clock already. Maybe that's why people hurried past me they wanted dinner!
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – I don't think I can do it. The big screen, you know. There was only a tiny bit of diversity. I saw two African Americans. North Colorado Springs is rather homogeneous.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes especially the worship.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
While it was a good service, the one thing I'll be sure to remember is that giant morphing Jesus!