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Baptist, Glasgow, Scotland
Hillhead Baptist, Glasgow, Scotland.
Union of Scotland.
Externally, the building does pretty much what it says on the
tin: it looks like it’s a Baptist church and it is. However,
the community meets in their church hall (known as the Tryst)
as they are in the process of reviewing the future of their
sanctuary. The Tryst runs along the length of the church (front
to back) and again looks much like you might expect a traditional
church hall to look. There is a kitchen/servery down one side,
a small balcony over the door, and there may have been a stage
at the far end. There was a pair of red curtains hanging floor
to ceiling decorated with a Pentecost motif (golden flames),
and a table covered in a red cloth holding a Bible on a stand,
a wooden cross, and a chalice.
I got the impression that it was a relatively small community
comprised of a mixture of ages. They run a Sunday school and
a creche, as well as various fellowship and guild groups.
Hillhead is a residential area in the west end of Glasgow. It’s
very close to the university, which makes it a popular area
for students. The church itself is just off the Byres Road,
which is a bustling and lively area, permanently busy.
The service was taken by the Revd Dr Derek Murray. I was told
that at the moment the community has no minister of their own
and services are being led by visiting ministers.
The date & time:
25 May 2008, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Pretty much all of the seats that had been set out were full
– I’m guessing there were 30 to 40 folk there.
Did anyone welcome you
Oh yes – I was greeted by one of the stewards at the door,
who commented that it was quite cold and was I warm enough?
(I was wearing short sleeves.) As I sat down, the gentleman
next to me wished me good morning.
Was your pew comfortable?
No pews, but padded stacking chairs. They were perfectly adequate
in terms of comfort. The chairs were set out in three sections
in an arc facing the long side of the wall.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
The piano was playing what I would describe as "settling
down" music, and folks were sitting there listening or
speaking quietly to their neighbours. I felt a little nervous
as I felt rather more visible than I’d have liked.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning. Welcome to our service."
What books did the congregation use during the
There was a paper order of service. Hymns came from Baptist
Praise and Worship. The readings may have come from the
Good News Bible as I think that was what I spotted
on the chair next to the reader.
What musical instruments were played?
Just the piano.
Did anything distract you?
Because of where I was sitting, the kitchen was in my peripheral
vision. My eyes kept alighting on the blue and yellow mugs that
had been set out for after-service refreshments. Other than
that, there really weren’t any major distractions.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
I guess you’d probably describe it as a straightforward,
uncomplicated hymn sandwich, with the hymns ranging from traditional
to the Celtic folk style of the Iona community. But it felt
humble and sincere.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
16 minutes, not including some very brief remarks for the children.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 Dr Murray's style was open and easy-going, but he didn't
have the easiest of subject matter.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Tranquility vs turmoil. Faith is supposed to bring joy and peace,
and we’re taught of a God of love. But actually the Old
Testament depicts a God who gets angry not only with his enemies
but also his own people. And for that matter, we see Jesus getting
angry in the New Testament too. But we don’t really know
what to do with anger, how to express it or indeed whether to
express it. The cross is all about God's anger being subsumed
by his great love. (I wasn't clear on exactly how he arrived
at that conclusion.)
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
One of the lessons was Matthew 11:28 ("Come to me, all
who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest"),
which made me immediately think of the hymn "I heard the
voice of Jesus say," which is a favourite of mine and holds
a lot of meaning for me. There was a period of music for meditation
after the lessons, and the pianist played and improvised on
the tune Kingsfold, the tune for that hymn and
it touched me.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
An almost ever-present concern that I was a little too visible
and obviously a visitor. It didn’t help that I took an
empty seat which turned out to be virtually in the choir! I
was sure that my scribbling might lead to me being unmasked
as the Mystery Worshipper. It was a needless concern, though,
as my anonymity seemed to be intact when I left.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn’t really need to hang around looking lost. It was
a small community and I was fairly obviously a visitor. So a
number of people came up to greet me, ask me if I was new, and
invite me to get a cup of tea or coffee. I was warmly welcomed,
engaged in conversation, and even invited to join them on a
church canal boat trip if I wished. And then as I left, I heard
someone say, "Haste ye back!"
How would you describe the after-service
It was a very good mug of tea, and there was a good selection
of home-baked goodies. I helped myself to a slice of very tasty
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 I came away thinking "I like those people!"
I'm also beginning to think about how denominationally flexible
I am prepared to be and what's important to me when looking
for a church.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
I think so, yes.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The warmth and friendliness of the people I met.
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