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402: Launceston Church of Christ, Launceston, Australia
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Launceston Church of Christ, Launceston, Australia
Mystery Worshipper: Southern Stealth.
The church: Launceston Church of Christ, Launceston, Australia.
Denomination: Church of Christ.
The building: The church meets in a large rectangular building of no real aesthetic attraction. The main part of the church is behind an older section that is on the streetfront. The entrance from the car park leads to a set of stairs that descend to the main area, which is nicely laid out with a large "milling around" area behind the seating.
The church: There is a good feel to the place as you enter – this is one of the bigger church congregations in the city and there are large numbers of teenagers in attendance.
The neighbourhood: The church is situated quite close to the central business district of Launceston and nearby to several other churches. This area is a kind of transition zone between commercial space and residential area. Car yards share blocks with parks and pubs.
The cast: Associate minister Wayne Kerrison was the preacher for the evening, and an array of others helped with leading music, administering communion, etc.
What was the name of the service?
This evening service was a "service of worship and celebration".

How full was the building?
The building was about two-thirds full at the beginning, but nearly every pew was taken by the end of the service.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was welcomed at the door and given a sermon outline. I met someone when I sat at a pew and we got chatting.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was a long padded bench, typical of those found in contemporary church decor. Quite comfortable – probably just possible to drift off to sleep on. There were small receptacles in the back of the pews to use as mini cup-holders for communion elements.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The pre-service atmosphere was one of young friends catching up, kids running around. Very informal, and not too noisy.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books were used during the service. We all had an A5-sized sermon outline to follow during the talk. Various notes, words and images were presented on a projector screen.

What musical instruments were played?
The musical instruments included guitars, a violin and several vocalists. It was immensely refreshing to have contemporary worship music with no one bashing away on drums (although I did notice an unplayed drumset skulking in the corner).

Did anything distract you?
I was a bit distracted by the loudspeaker system being fairly restrained in volume – I guess it made you listen carefully. The violin sounded competently played but the reproduction through the public address system left something to be desired. Being from a more traditional church, I spent some time wondering how they did communion in this service and whether I would know what to do. I also saw an old friend across the room and wondered how he was getting on.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I'm used to many contemporary churches being of the "hands down if you love Jesus" type and having a "raise your arms and turn around for the best reception" kind of singing time, but apart from a bit of clapping along with the music, people were quite calm. Just nice and relaxed.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
The sermon went on for about 19 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The preacher came across as very honest, concise and open, if such a thing is possible. I enjoyed his talk and found it to be very relevant.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was on the qualities of a leader, looking particularly at Paul's comments in 1 Timothy. One of the points was about leadership being about enabling others and not wielding power. Included was the topic of what makes an elder.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The general feel of the place, of being in a place where people are meeting with Christ with no agendas but a desiring heart and an eagerness to learn more.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Even with fancy public-address systems, there is always a delay between the person starting to talk in a microphone and the microphone being turned up. The inevitable "tap-tap – is this on?" moment occurs, as it does in churches all round the world, it seems. The poor reproduction of the violin also irritated me, which was a shame because I like to hear well-played violins in church music. Also the communion time, which is very symbolically portrayed in my church tradition, was a very quick affair in this service, and they used grape juice for it. Perhaps I'm just a sucker for a wee bit of liturgy.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I bumped into a friend or two and chatted a bit after the service, and then talked with a welcomer at the door as I went out. I'm a pretty upfront sort of person, so going up and meeting people in a strange church is no problem. I imagine a shyer person would have little trouble meeting people here, though.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I don't drink coffee, but they have Nescafe and Milo.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – A nice church to visit every now and again, but I like to feel more involved in communion. They appear to have an excellent foundation for good teaching, active outreach and cheery worship.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I certainly felt glad to be a Christian at this service. It was nice to see a different way of doing things and be with enthusiastic, down-to-earth people.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I will remember that violin that I didn't hear enough of!
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