|738: Hillsong, Blackfriars, London|
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Mystery Worshipper: Joe Nah.
The church: Hillsong Church, Blackfriars, London.
Denomination: It appears to be non-denominational.
The church: This church draws worshippers from all around Greater London. No one seems to live locally and the community aspect appears to be absent. There are activities throughout the week, but these are spread across London in different venues.
The neighbourhood: Blackfriars is right on the edge of the City of London, close to the River Thames. It is bustling during the week but, apart from the church, is fairly dead at the weekend.
The cast: The Hillsong worship band and choir, Pastor Gary Clarke and guest speaker Paul De Jong, pastor of Auckland Christian Life Centre.
What was the name of the service?
10.30am Service. This is the first of three services – the church needs all three to cope with numbers.
How full was the building?
The theatre must seat 1,000 people and there were less than a dozen empty seats. Apparently two out of three Sunday services are like this, with the middle service being half full. That means 2,500 people worship here every week.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
It was difficult not to be welcomed. There were numerous greeters adorned in Hillsong t-shirts and people were amazingly friendly. I was spoken to at length by two different people before I made it to the auditorium.
Was your pew comfortable?
No pews: this church has the benefit of very modern theatre seats with excellent padding, although we didn't get the opportunity to sit down for the first 30 minutes. As in any good theatre, everyone could see the band, the words to the songs and the preacher. The only things we didn't get were an interval and ice creams!
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Buzzing and alive.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
The pastor said, "Well, welcome to church." This was at 11.00am, 30 minutes after the service officially began. The first half hour was taken up by worship, ably led by the band and the singers.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None – all the song lyrics were projected onto three screens. None of the songs we sang appear in any hymn or song book I've seen, but they were good enough and will probably be the old hymns of tomorrow.
What musical instruments were played?
More a question of what wasn't played! This is a seriously noisy church; the amazing band produced an incredible sound.
Did anything distract you?
It was difficult to be distracted by anything. The service lasted a little under two hours but it seemed like it was over in half an hour. Even the notices were given as part of a multi-media presentation.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Happy clappy doesn't begin to describe the worship. "Awesome" is the word that Hillsong would probably use and I couldn't argue with that. I know it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but I thought the worship was excellent.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Just a tad short of one hour, but it seemed to be much, much shorter.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 The preacher was first class. His Kiwi accent was easy on the ears and the message was excellent.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The way we are impacts on those around us (Proverbs 11:10-11), but to make an impact on their communities Christians need to be firmly planted in fertile soil, where they should put down deep roots. Pruning may be painful, but is necessary (John 15) and will help us deepen our roots and produce more fruit. It is foolish to attempt to move, because it takes years for a prolific fruit tree to recover its fruitfulness if moved. Our fruit may be taken by others, but we will receive our reward if we allow this. Christians should settle, remain, grow roots, allow pruning, commit and not be disconnected.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Being in a place of worship that was exploding with happy, joyous worshippers.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
None of the other place here.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nobody stays lost for long in this church. This has to be the friendliest church I have ever visited.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I believe that there was coffee available but didn't find it. Unfortunately I had a train to catch and it was difficult to leave quickly due to the crush of friendly people.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 If I lived in London I would want to be here every week. I don't live in London and wouldn't mind transplanting Hillsong Church to my home town. This is a church I could take non-Christian friends to without any fear of embarrassment.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I don't want to forget anything about this service – but I want to go back in seven days time, and seven days after that, and seven days after that, and...