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1570: Fish Gate Community at The Corner, Warradale, Australia
Fish Gate Community at The Corner, Warradale, Australia
Mystery Worshipper: Diemperdidi.
The church: Fish Gate Community, meeting at The Corner Uniting Church, Warradale, Australia.
Denomination: Fish Gate Community appears to be non-denominational. The Corner Uniting Church is Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of South Australia.
The building: It's a new, multi-purpose building that's a multi-shaped conglomeration of wings – some square, some round, some triangular. Inside can be found a sanctuary holding 450 people, as well as counselling and meeting rooms, a community café, children's and youth spaces, and one of those second-hand charity boutiques known throughout Australia as "op shoppes."
The church: I was told that The Corner was an amalgamation of two church communities – but, given that they meet at opposite ends of the day, they don't seem to be very amalgamated. Perhaps with time the differences will blur. Fish Gate Community derives its name from Nehemiah 3:3 – "The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place." The book of Nehemiah is all about the restoration of Jerusalem, but it is also a picture of the work God is doing in the restoration of his church.
The neighbourhood: Warradale is a southwestern suburb of Adelaide very near to the beach. It appears to enjoy a healthy real estate industry.
The cast: Pastor David Kowalick.
The date & time: 10 March 2008, 5.00pm.

What was the name of the service?
The Fish Gate.

How full was the building?
Approximately 100 worshippers were present. It was a very hot day, with the temperature in excess of 100°F. Perhaps those present were escaping the heat.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
As soon as I sat down, a friendly person said "Hi!" and sat next to me. I was then introduced to everyone who stopped by to chat with my seat mate.

Was your pew comfortable?
The individual padded chairs were very comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Friendly, with much greeting and catching up of news. My new friend ensured that I didn't feel at all excluded.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Come on in. We're going to start on time."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None – songs were beamed to the front wall. The preacher specifically mentioned that he was using a New International Version Bible.

What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard and guitar. Two singers led the music from the raised platform at the front of the room. I only knew one of the songs but picked up the others pretty quickly (especially because verses/choruses were repeated a number of times).

Did anything distract you?
The young woman in front of me sported a tattoo that was a pleasant distraction. I don't recall seeing many tattoos in church. I was also distracted by the newness of the place. In time it will obtain a character of its own, but I couldn't help wondering whether this will be the character of the Fish Gate or the community that meets in the morning.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A few members of the congregation looked as if they were about to go all happy-clappy a few times but limited themselves to swaying. Overall it was relaxed and comfortable.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
40 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – David Kowalick structured his sermon well. He was able to talk for minutes at a time without referring to his notes.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He said he enjoyed fishing for fish as well as for people, and went into considerable detail about his various fishing adventures. Somehow he linked this in with Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, but I lost concentration after awhile and don't remember exactly how. It had something to do with faith and never giving up, even when God expects us to wait for a long number of years for something to arrive.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I don't get to sing very often, and it was great to be able to sing here. There were also appropriate "quiet times" and I always appreciate that. Finally, the cool interior was a welcome respite from the sweltering heat outside.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I found David's references to fishing unsettling. I believe that fishing is a blood sport that doesn't take into account the feelings of God's fishy creatures. I'm pretty sure, though, that I was the only person present who had this particular problem. It was also a struggle to have to sit still for 40 minutes – my back began to hurt a great deal and I found it hard to concentrate for that long on what the preacher was saying. Little footstools and stretching time would have been appreciated.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't have a chance to look lost at any time. There was always someone on hand to smile, introduce themselves and offer coffee.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Coffee and tea were served in generous mugs. I didn't notice biscuits but that could be because I wasn't looking for them.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – Perhaps when the newness of the place wears off. But the people were happy and friendly, and I felt that they would be pleased to see me again (which is always great).

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it did. I doubt that I will ever again feel at home in a local mainstream church.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The fishing stories, unfortunately.
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