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2722: Morningside Church of Christ, Auckland, New Zealand
Morningside Church, Auckland (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Wldflr.
The church: Morningside Church of Christ, Auckland, New Zealand.
Denomination: Church of Christ.
The building: A two story red brick building, probably circa 50s or early 60s. Quaint and nestled in a quiet side street in the mostly industrial suburb of Morningside. As I understand it, the building was originally built for some kind of splinter Mormon group, but has been occupied by the present group for the best part of 40 years.
The church: Their website indicates that they are quite a busy church community, with several groups including benevolence work into the community. There is a good proportion of immigrants in the community including several from South Africa.
The neighbourhood: The name of the suburb Morningside originates from the farm estate that once dominated the area until it was subdivided for housing in 1865. Apart from being quite an old housing area, there is a large industrial presence there also that in fact occupies most of Morningside Drive itself.
The cast: John Staiger, minister ("Brother John"), was the preacher. The opening prayer was by Dave Howell, and the song service was led by Angelo Anacan.
The date & time: 20 July 2014, 11.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Worship.

How full was the building?
The building was 80 to 90 per cent full, with approximately 80 folk in attendance. I was impressed with this because the church is in quite an obscure locale and you would not know it was there unless you were either specifically looking for it or happened upon it by driving past it, as I did.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes I was welcomed warmly as I took my seat.

Was your pew comfortable?
For wooden pews (oak), they were very comfortable, with a long cushion on each pew. There were book holders in front of where I was sitting.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I walked in as the sentence was being read, so I didn't get a feel for the pre-service atmosphere.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
I walked in as the opening sentence was being read: "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God" (1 John 4:7-10). The next words following that were simply "Good morning."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
There were hymn books in the pews (Songs of Faith and Praise, as I recall), and folks either had their own Bibles or the scripture passages were projected onto a screen quickly and efficiently.

What musical instruments were played?
This is a non-instrumental church, singing a cappella only – and extremely well, I might add! I suspect the absence of mention of instruments by and large in the New Testament has something to do with this.

Did anything distract you?
There were a few folk walking in drinking coffee as the service was proceeding, and frankly I found this somewhat irritating. I feel we are there to focus on the Lord in our discourses and praises, and that coffee is for a time and a place other than in the service of worship. But I might be being a bit pedantic here.

Morningside Church, Auckland, NZ (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was sung with enthusiasm and vigour. Such songs as "Lord reign in me" and similar were sung. The harmonies were fabulous and made me realise just how much weight we sometimes put on our instruments when they in fact should only ever be enhancements to the worship experience. On the other hand, I would hope that they sometimes allow those who have such gifts as playing instruments to express those gifts in the worship experience as well.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
I confess I didn't get the exact length, but it was around the half hour mark.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Brother John was what I would fairly call a good, down to earth, not too animated preacher of the Word: clear, concise and with a good dose of humour scattered throughout.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
With the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 so fresh in mind, he preached on peace. We have no peace without Christ. He is the source of all peace for all mankind. "He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The singing and the communion using leavened bread and grape juice (this being somewhat of a letdown, as I'm something of a purist). The singing was fabulous, perhaps a bit unanimated, but nevertheless it lifted me to the Throne.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The fact that there were people slurping coffee in the service irked me somewhat. And the lack of musical instruments is fine as long as that in itself does not become a prideful stumbling block, and vice-versa for those of us who do use instruments.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
As I hurried to be discreet and leave, I was the first one out the door – only to be met by Brother John. I didn't really want to engage in discourse because my own church is also named Church of Christ (although a different denomination). For reasons I won't go into, I knew that if the minister learned that, it would not take any time at all for him to make the connection and discover who I was. Sometimes the mask slips off.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was coffee offered, but as stated, I didn't partake – I assume good, but I didn't stay.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – This is a vibrant, healthy, warm community of faith as far as I could tell from this one visit. I would definitely make this my regular church if I was new to the area.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely! It did indeed!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The wonderful harmonies and singing of parts in the hymns and songs.
 
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