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Elim, Bangor, Northern Ireland
The church: Bangor Elim,
Bangor, Northern Ireland.
Denomination: Elim Pentecostal.
The building: It looks like a massive warehouse from outside. Driving into
the car park, one is impressed by the sheer size of it. Inside
is quite plush: nice carpets and polished brass in abundance.
The auditorium itself is very impressive. There's a large
stage that runs almost the length of the room, upon which
are three large screens, the central one being larger than
the outer two. The floor slopes gently toward the front. The
false ceilings are quite high, lending a spacious, airy feel
to the place. It reminded me a bit of being in the cinema.
The church: They say they have around 350 families in membership, and have
an impressive host of services on offer to the community.
These include English classes for immigrants and social action
teams directed toward the bereaved and juvenile delinquents,
etc. The church has grown considerably over the years; this
building is an upgrade on their previous one, which I remember
visiting many years ago. I learned tonight that they are seeking
to upgrade the present tenement to almost double their seating
capacity, which will mean almost 1000 pews!
The neighbourhood: Not pretty. Bangor is a lovely seaside town where people regularly
come for fish'n chips and ice-cream, but Bangor Elim is slightly
out of town in an industrial area just off a very busy road.
It's surrounded by large franchise stores and warehouses.
The cast: The Revd Davy Beckett, senior pastor, preached, but the service
was led by another man whose name I didn't get.
The date & time: Sunday, 10 April 2011, 6.30pm.
What was the
name of the service?
How full was
I would estimate around 400 people in the house altogether, with room
for at least another 100 or so.
welcome you personally?
As I reached the door, a man opened it for me. He called me
"buddy"! I was also handed an announcement sheet as I
entered the auditorium.
Was your pew
Yes, it was very nice indeed. Folding cinema type seats, very
well upholstered, with armrests that were just the right height.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
There was a fair amount of hubbub: a steady stream of people
flowing in right up to the start. The chat volume remained
around the same – slightly above reverent-hush level
– throughout. There was a timer on the screen that counted
down the final three minutes till the service began and, sure
enough, it started bang on time. Just before the start, a
side stage door opened and the musicians trooped in –
all 20 or so of them – and took their places. A very
impressive looking squad, I must say.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"Good evening and hello. Welcome to Bangor Elim."
What books did
the congregation use during the
None, although there was a rack of Bibles at the back with a sign
inviting anyone who forgot their Bible to borrow one of these.
instruments were played?
There was a keyboard, at least three guitars, two saxophones,
a flute, a drum kit, and also some African type bongo drums
– as well as around 13 vocalists.
The folding seats were very creaky. In fact, when at several
points during the service the congregation were asked to stand,
all the seats sprang back simultaneously and made a lot of
noise (I found this amusing). During the opening song, a message
flashed on the screen announcing that "Kidzone is now open"
and all the kids dutifully began to file out. While I thought
this was quite ingenious, it was nevertheless quite distracting.
I wondered if it might take away from the worship experience
for everyone when the children literally walked out in the
middle of a song.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The music was very good – not very many raised hands,
however. The tempo was definitely upbeat. The atmosphere was
not quite ecstatic, although the flautist began jumping up
and down on stage at one point. The opening song was a solo
rendition of "There's a hole in my heart that can only be
filled by you", which was a 90s chart hit for the pop group
Extreme. As this was sung, the screens flashed up a picture
of a massive red heart with a big hole in it! Afterwards the
soloist received generous applause.
Exactly how long was
On a scale of
1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Pastor Davy is a very good communicator. He spoke
very clearly and his manner allowed the message to come over
without any distractions. He is very engaging and easy to
listen to, but I thought his handling of the text lacked depth.
He spent too much time talking about subjective feelings and
not enough effort expounding on God's character.
In a nutshell,
what was the sermon
Idols. His text: Exodus 32; the story of the golden calf.
"What is your golden calf?" he asked. Is there anything coming
between you and God? There is a hole in the heart of "every
single person in this room", which can only be filled by God.
And God wants to fill it, for he is a jealous God. He is also
an angry God, and when people try to elbow him out he doesn't
like it. Don't lean on idols, in whatever form they take,
because even if they look nice and shiny on the outside they
are really rotten underneath and will finally let you down
when you lean on them too heavily.
Which part of
the service was like being in
I didn't know many of the songs, but when one came up that
I did know, it had a wonderful effect on me and drew me quickly
into a state of pure worship. Also, and very surprisingly,
the whole service was over in exactly 53 minutes! Incredible
for a charismatic service and totally fine by me.
And which part
was like being in... er... the other place?
At the end of the sermon there was an appeal for raised hands
(which I just don't get). Sure enough, somebody's mobile phone
broke the silence and was allowed to keep ringing! Thankfully
the appeal didn't last very long, however, and was wrapped
up after a measly three hands.
when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I hovered around in the guest welcome area for at least five
minutes waiting to be picked up and whisked away to coffee,
but as person after person streamed by and ignored me I realized
I was destined to be stood up. When I gave up and walked out,
someone held the door open for me but didn't say good-bye!
How would you
describe the after-service
Everyone had been encouraged to stay and visit their state-of-the-art
coffee shop, but I couldn't find it and didn't really know
where to go. Perhaps it's just as well, because I'm not sure
how I would have felt about being asked to pay! [Editor's
note: Comments we have received concerning this report have
indicated that coffee may be free.]
How would you
feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
7 – It's a lovely building, at least on the inside,
and has a palpable and wholesome family atmosphere. The music
is quite good, and the sermons aren't too long. So yes, definitely
a potential for regular worshipping, but they would need to
ratchet up the welcome a bit!
Did the service
make you feel glad to be a
Yes, it did.
What one thing
will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The incredible clattering of the folding chairs as everyone
stood up together.
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