|856: Glenwood Chapel, Port Carling, Ontario, Canada|
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Mystery Worshipper: Lorenzo.
The church: Glenwood Chapel, Port Carling, Ontario, Canada.
Denomination: Evangelical, non-denominational. Slogan: "Built on Christ the Rock."
The building: A new structure built in a log-cabin style – very unusual and refreshing for a church. A gravel parking lot is out back, alongside a basketball court and playground set for children.
The church: The core constituency meets year-round in a beautiful setting. The church population swells significantly, however, during the summer months when visitors from the Toronto area two hours south arrive to holiday in this beautiful area of Ontario. The core group of members serve these visitors week after week.
The neighbourhood: The church is surrounded by forest, granite rock outcroppings, and the lakes of the Muskoka region of Ontario. The nearest other buildings are several hundred metres away. The nearest village is several kilometres distant.
The cast: Pastor Ian Curr, senior pastor. Tim Coleman, minister of Christian education and youth.
What was the name of the service?
Sunday Morning Worship.
How full was the building?
The Victoria Day weekend (May 24) is generally considered to be the first long weekend of the year, when city-dwellers open up their cottages for summer use. The church was absolutely bulging at the seams, with extra chairs placed in the aisles, foyer and outdoor patio. Over 240 people.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The greeter at the front door ensured that every hand was squeezed in welcome.
Was your pew comfortable?
Forest green fabric-covered stacking chairs with plenty of stuffing made the 1.5 hours comfortable. But we were packed in like sardines, so there wasn't a lot of room.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Friendly, chatty crowd.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning! Welcome to Glenwood Chapel, all you people out there!"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Only the Bible (New International Version). Songs were sung using a Powerpoint projector.
What musical instruments were played?
One acoustic guitar, a set of drums and a baby grand piano. There were two men and two women singers. One of the men led worship.
Did anything distract you?
Near the end of the service, there was a horrible stench emanating from a soiled diaper... never did find the source, but it really did distract! Several rows of people were gagging in the close quarters.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I think the worship team wanted us to be a bit more happy clappy than we were. With all the newcomers present, many didn't know what the normal protocol for the service was. There were a few hands raised, but nothing too emotional!
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 I found it hard to follow the train of thought of the sermon, but what I did find inspiring was the pastor's passion and sincerity. It came through in many personal stories. He obviously connects with his congregation.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The pastor spoke from Ephesians 1:15-23 about the power of God. He mentioned that last week was Ascension Day and on that day the power of God was made evident. The world can be a discouraging place, but no matter what it looks like, our God reigns, and Jesus sits with his Father as sovereign. He concluded with this quote: "Don't tell God how big your problems are, tell your problems how big God is."
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
A radiant teenaged girl shared with the congregation how she was in her high school class, and the teacher began to make fun of Christians and people who believe in God. Her teacher kept saying "we" don't believe in God anymore. She confronted him by saying his words were discriminatory as she believed in God and so was not included in the "we". The teacher then asked who in the class believed in God, and the girl was the only one of 25 students. More than anything in the service, her boldness and conviction was inspiring to me.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
A strange event: upon arrival at the church but prior to entry into the building, our group was shepherded over to a garden where a gentleman took a digital picture of us. They wouldn't let us into the building until our picture was taken – I felt like we were going to have our fingerprints taken next! Very intrusive. Only during the service was it explained to newcomers that the pictures were for the "family wall".
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We visited with some other newcomers – people also from Toronto who were opening their cottage for the summer.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I passed on the coffee. Prefer Starbucks.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 It's not really my style. But I found God there, and know it meets the needs of many conservative people who like that sort of service.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. There was a simplicity to their faith that I recognize from my childhood. It brought back some good memories.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The best part of their building are two small stained glass windows of a northern Ontario lake, one depicting the spring, the other the autumn. Nice to have non-religious stained glass. Both pastors are passionate and warm. I liked that.