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||1213: St Jude's, Glasgow, Scotland
Mystery Worshipper: Shaun the Sheep.
The church: St Jude's, Glasgow, Scotland.
Denomination: Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
The building: The church building rather looms over the surrounding
buildings. Apart from a small car park, there is no land outside that belongs
to the church. Inside is plain and unadorned, with wooden fittings and red
carpet and cushions. There are no pictures or stained glass or anything
else that might distract the eye. The light and airy feel was tempered somewhat
by the darker wood fittings.
The church: The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland is informally
known (but not by its members) as the Wee Wee Frees, to distinguish it from
the Wee Frees (Free Church of Scotland, from which it seceded following
the latter's earlier secession from the Church of Scotland). They are staunchly
Protestant, Presbyterian, Calvinist, evangelical. As far as I'm aware, this
is the church's only Glasgow congregation, so I'm not sure how much of the
local geographical population it serves.
The neighbourhood: The church is in Glasgow's West End, probably
the most affluent area of the city, relatively close to the city centre
in one direction and to Glasgow University in the other. The immediate neighbourhood
consists largely of restaurants, coffee bars, antique shops, and Glasgow's
ubiquitous sandstone tenement flats. There are two other churches in the
same road, Anglican and Methodist, but this church building at the top of
the hill is probably the most imposing. There is large student population
in the area, although I understand that local church-going students tend
to prefer the Anglican church.
The cast: None of the participants were announced or introduced,
but I am pretty sure that the leader and preacher was the church's minister,
the Rev. Roderick Macleod. Worship was led by another unnamed gentleman.
The date & time: Sunday, 12 February 2006, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
I'd say there were about 80 to 90 people present. All of the front pews
were empty, as was the upstairs balcony – the lower part of the church
was probably about a third full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A young man asked me if I would like a Bible, and explained to me that the
church sings the metrical psalms in the back of the Bible.
Was your pew comfortable?
I started off thinking that it was comfortable enough – it was a standard
wooden pew with a very nice red padded cushion along the entire length of
the pew. However, I had to do quite a bit of sitting in it, and by the end
I was desperate to stand up and stretch.
How would you describe the pre-service
Before the service started, everybody was silent. The only sound was of
people coming in and taking a seat. A few people had their heads bowed in
prayer, but most seemed to be just sitting still and looking toward the
front. Everybody was dressed very smartly – all of the women wore hats,
and all of the men were in suits. There were no children present. I understand
that Sabbath school starts prior to the main service and carries on throughout
What were the exact opening words of the
It was difficult to take down word for word, but it was along the lines
of: "We shall begin our public worship of God by reading Psalm 106
and singing to his praise."
What books did the congregation use during the
The only book used was the Authorised (King James) Version of the Bible.
What musical instruments were played?
No instruments were played. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland believes
that all we need for worship has been given to us by God in the psalms,
and worship should not be sullied by man-made inventions.
Did anything distract you?
A woman in a nearby pew was taking copious notes throughout the sermon.
I found myself wondering more than once if we were both, unbeknownst to
each other, Mystery Worshipping the same service!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The worship took the form of the singing of metrical psalms. It was led
by a gentleman at the front with a strong clear voice, and we sang in unison
whilst remaining seated. In fact, the only time we stood in the entire service
was for the prayers at the beginning of the service, the prayers after the
sermon, and the grace at conclusion of the service. The congregation obviously
knew the psalms well, and sang along heartily. There was certainly no raising
of hands or clapping or other movement – stiff-upper-lip probably
describes it quite well.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
2 Pastor Macleod had a gentle delivery which I'm afraid I found a
little monotonous after a while. I also found him quite rambling –
if he'd been more succinct I'm sure he could have made all his points in
15 minutes. He only seemed to get animated toward the very end of the sermon,
by which time he'd already lost me. The sermon included lengthy expositions
about the inspired, God-breathed, infallible and inerrant nature of scripture,
the fact that it contains no contradictions, and the error of "the
Mohammedans" who believe that they are following a prophet of peace.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
It is very difficult to put a 55 minute sermon into a nutshell! He compared
Hosea 2:1-13 (the prophet's outlining of Israel's sins and the chastisement
for those sins) with verse 14 onward, where the tone changes from threats
to promises of restoration. We need to understand these verses not just
in the context of the history of Israel and what will happen to them in
the future, but also for those whom the apostle Paul termed "the true
Israel" – those that have saving faith in Jesus Christ. Infusing
the entire sermon (in fact infusing the entire service) was an overriding
sense of our utter sinfulness and inability to change or take heed of God's
word without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to regenerate us and lead
us from the infinite justice we deserve to the infinite mercy shown through
the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Which part of the service was like being in
The gentleman who led the singing had a beautiful clear and strong voice
which was a delight to listen to. Also, at the beginning of the service
a woman sitting near me noticed me fumbling with my Bible trying to find
the psalm, and she came over and gave me her book open at the appropriate
page. I really appreciated her noticing my cluelessness and coming to my
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I found a 55 minute sermon way too long. During the last 20 minutes of it
(having sat down for almost the entire service so far) I was desperately
uncomfortable, and no matter how much I fidgeted (which wasn't much as it
would have been too distracting for others) I could not get rid of my creeping
backache. I also found pretty much all of the service rather dour and lacking
in joy, and every part of it seemed much more focused on our unworthiness
and sinfulness than on the freedom to be found in grace.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
At the end of the service everybody walked out, in silence, and went straight
outside into the open air. This being Scotland in February, it was really
cold and damp, so to be honest it wasn't an environment where I wanted to
be hanging around. I did catch a snippet of someone else's conversation
where a young woman was being asked if she was a student here, so it looked
like another newcomer was being engaged in conversation, which I was pleased
How would you describe the after-service
There were no after-service refreshments of any kind – everybody just trooped
outside and went on their way, although many people seemed to stop in the
car park and chat for a bit before dispersing. There are a few cafes and
coffee shops nearby, though I suspect the denomination would rather disapprove
of buying refreshments in a commercial establishment on the Sabbath.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 This church was much too conservative, both theologically and in
terms of its expectations about behaviour and dress, for me to feel comfortable
worshipping here regularly. I would also miss having regular communion services
(the congregation has communion twice a year).
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Not particularly, to be honest, as it was so dour.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The emphasis on sin and man's depravity and unworthiness infusing every
single part of the service.
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