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2717: Grace Church, Bath, Ohio, USA
Grace Church, Bath, OH
Mystery Worshipper: The Deaconator.
The church: Grace Church, Bath, Ohio, USA.
Denomination: Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches.
The building: Looks like a regular church from the outside, but inside more of a warehouse feel. Exposed electrical and heating. Parking was good with many helpers and handicap spots. The rest of the facility was spotlessly clean and airy – they even have doors that are noiseless in and out of the service area.
The church: They have grown tremendously from 150 people to four services at this location and other locations throughout the area. The outreaches they have are amazing and many, as listed on their website. I'll just mention the Life Groups, (quoting from their website) "small, casual groups [that] offer the best way for you to get connected here at Grace no matter your age or season of life." The church is hopping with activities for all ages every day of the week.
The neighborhood: Bath Township borders the city of Akron on the southeast. Originally known as Wheatfield, and then Hammondsburgh, a further name change came up for discussion at a town meeting in the year 1818. As the discussion dragged on, one citizen finally rose to say, "O, call it Jerusalem, Jericho, Bath, or anything but Hammondsburgh!" The rest, as they say, is history. The name of Bath, if nothing else, places the town first in the alphabetical listing of county townships. It is a very upscale place, counting basketball star LeBron James as one of its residents as well as the notorious convicted serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
The cast: Ryan Rodeman, pastor of adult ministry, was the preacher.
The date & time: Sunday, July 13, 2014, 9.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Nine O'Clock

How full was the building?
Three-quarters full – about 400 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
They were welcoming many people outside, but I was not one of them. Inside, at the door, someone said "Hi" and handed me a pamphlet.

Was your pew comfortable?
No! They were chairs and a bit too low, which made it hard to get up or out of the way when someone else wanted to get in the row.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Loud music with a louder three-minute countdown to service time. Lots of movement and activity. But the people came in with their drinks and seemed just to sit down to wait. All the children under junior high age were elsewhere for the entire service. Only one baby was present for a short time and made no disturbance.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Please stand for our first song."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Bibles were under some of the seats (but not mine).

What musical instruments were played?
A keyboard/synthesizer, two guitars, bass, and a large drum set. There was a female vocalist as well as the men on guitars singing.

Did anything distract you?
The stage had long (ceiling to floor) swatches of material with lights at the base that changed colors, and therefore so did the material. Also, it began to rain outside, and the noise of raindrops on the metal roof was quite loud and quite distracting.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Contemporary but extremely loud. I would say they were not being good stewards of people's hearing, including the band. None of the songs were congregational sing-alongs, but if anyone did sing they couldn't be heard anyway. Several people were swaying to the music. After the first song they turned out the lights in the pews so full focus was on the musicians. Only three songs were played in the beginning, then one after the sermon and then during the collection. The preacher made a sort of "invitation to salvation" but he didn't ask anyone to come forward as in an altar call.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
33 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Ryan Rodeman's jokes were bad, very silly, although his voice tone and timbre were very good: gentle and soft, yet firm and determined. I did think that his lead-in was confusing until he began quoting scripture, which cleared things up a bit. Even so, some of his analogies fell short of the mark.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
His text was Matthew 24 (signs of the end times). He stressed that the end times were imminent and would be polarizing, catastrophic, confusing, universal, sudden, and unexpected.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
None of it!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
When the peace was passed, the lady next to me almost squeezed my hand off. It hurt!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No one spoke to me, although many people were speaking with each other. Maybe I am just too scary looking!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Most people brought in coffee from the coffee area at the beginning. There was little time left between the end of this service and the beginning of the next, so
the transition was a bit awkward.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 – I am a liturgical person and I do not like super loud music.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I did not have that experience.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
How loud it was. The gentleman in front of me kept turning his hearing aids off when the music started. But he stayed until after the sermon and peace.

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