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139: Cairns Baptist, Cairns City, Australia
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Mystery Worshipper: Justin Really.
The church: Cairns Baptist Church, Cairns City, Australia.
Denomination: Baptist.
The building: Typical brick fronted non-descript Baptist building with neatly manicured lawns and a smattering of palms. Inside was smart but somewhat dated, with wood-panelled front and wooden pulpit, communion table and the ubiquitous "elder's chairs". Thankfully, because of the temperature, the building was air-conditioned.
The neighbourhood: The church is located close to the Esplanade, which is a mecca for tourists and backpackers who have come to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef. The area is filled with holiday apartments, and is very young, in contrast with the church's clientele.
The cast: The pastor was on leave, so Phil Cory was preaching.
What was the name of the service?
Morning Service.

How full was the building?
Just over half full, but spread out across all the church.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A woman at the door smiled, greeted us briefly, and handed us a newsletter.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews weren't exactly ornate, but they passed the test. They were padded and had enough space between them so that I didn't have to sing in to the hairbun of the person in front of me.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The only pre-service atmosphere we tasted was outside, as we were late. That atmosphere was intense as latecomers made the dash from their cars to the church.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
The opening words we heard were a reading from Genesis.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
We had no books and had to rely on the good old overhead projector screen, which was surprising, given the many hymns we sang.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. Two backing singers accompanied the organist, which looked strange, but they could sing, I'll give them that.

Did anything distract you?
I was surprised by how many elderly people there were. I was expecting the church to reflect its surroundings (hip backpackers and international bright young things). In front of me there appeared to be a phalanx of greying widowers. The organ did take some getting used to as it is some time since I've been to a church (especially Baptist) which has an organist rather than a band.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The style was definitely hymn sandwich, led by a rather stern worship leader whose style was that of an announcer: "we'll have another song now"... "we'll just have a prayer now before I read". I thought the worship reflected the clientele – mainly elderly. Nothing flashy was needed.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
27 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5. The preacher (I assume) is a respected member of the church and a fairly able speaker. He'd obviously done it before.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Will we allow God to use us?

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Towards the end of the sermon, the congregation perked up as the preacher launched into a classic Aussie analogy about a little willy wagtail bird chasing off a murderous butcher bird in an effort to protect other birds, illustrating the idea of having a big heart for God. A classic example of good preaching, Aussie style!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The newsheet was filled with numerous spelling mistakes, including one which provoked the darker side of my humour: a report from some church missionaries regarding recent conversions substituted "desire" with "disease", to read that a number of people indicated their "disease to receive Christ"!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We waited to be nailed. No one did, though, so we made our way to the coffee table.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The coffee looked like a cheap and bland instant variety, served in thin plastic cups, so we gave it a miss. I don't think we missed out.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2. The church service style reflects the presence of many older people, which is fair enough for them, but could be frustrating for even an ageing Gen X'er.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yeah, sure. Even though the service was not my cup of tea, the atmosphere was good and people seemed to love the place. It's always good to be with other Christians who are enjoying themselves.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
It's a toss up between the little willy wagtail and the people indicating their "disease to receive Christ". I think the willy wagtail wins out.
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