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885: Christ is the Answer Family Church, Batalleys, St Peter, Barbados
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Christ is the Answer Family Church, Batalleys, St Peter, Barbados
Mystery Worshipper: Sagacious.
The church: Christ is the Answer Family Church, Batalleys, St Peter, Barbados.
Denomination: Pentecostal Assemblies, West Indies.
The building: This church caught my eye as I was travelling by bus into Bridgetown. Initially I wondered if there was a circus in town, as it meets in a large big-top style tent with open sides, in the middle of a field by the main road. The tent was apparently erected 10 years ago as a temporary home for the new congregation and has been used ever since. It has full amenities, including electricity, lighting and a telephone. Alongside there are permanent buildings housing toilets and what appeared to be a children's centre.
The church: The church describes itself as a people church (meeting people's needs through the power of the Holy Spirit), a family church (with a strong sense of responsibility for everyone from babies to the elderly), a Bible church and a happy church. They say you will find their joy, excitement and enthusiasm very contagious – and I have to say I did! The church offers something for everyone: care ministry, women's ministry, drama and dance ministries, counselling, food for the needy, a trade school training people in various skills to help those who are unemployed, and, being committed to the physical as well as the spiritual, a sports department.
The neighbourhood: The nearest town is Speightstown, which is a true blend of old and new. The island's northernmost town, it was once a major seaport and important fishing village, and is still reminiscent of its bygone days. Wooden two-storey balconied buildings dot the town and give it a quaint atmosphere. Speightstown was once close to becoming a ghost town, but it has recently started to bustle with activity as many businesses have moved in.
The cast: In the absence of the pastor, who was ill, the service was led by Mr John Griffith.
What was the name of the service?
The sign at the main road said "7.30am Worship Service, 9.30am Family Bible Hour." I thought I'd opt for the later service.

How full was the building?
The church has over 400 members and I'd say it was 80 per cent full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I arrived at 9.15, in plenty of time (I thought!) to find a secluded seat and get settled in. However, as I arrived, I was surprised to find the preacher in full swing. My taxi literally dumped me at the side of the tent and disappeared to get another fare, leaving me standing, looking more than a little perplexed, in full view of the congregation. At this point a gentleman came out to see me and explained that the roadside sign announcing a 9.30am service was incorrect, and that I had arrived just in time for the end of the 7.30am Worship Service! Confusion aside, I was made to feel very welcome after the service by a number of the congregation, who took time to introduce themselves to me. They probably were keen to know who the idiot was that arrived 1 hour 45 minutes late for the service.

Was your pew comfortable?
The seats were those white plastic garden furniture type seats that sometimes have bendy legs. Very comfortable, but terrible to sit in when you're sweating.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
At 7.30am I was just stirring from my slumbers in my hotel, so I have absolutely no idea what the pre-service atmosphere was like!

What were the exact opening words of the service?
If it helps, the exact closing words of the service were, "Greet someone before you leave!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Everyone had their own Bible and the words for the hymns were projected by a projector onto a large screen at the front of the church.

What musical instruments were played?
Drums, keyboard, lead guitar, bass guitar and at least one singer.

Did anything distract you?
I found myself watching the congregation enjoying their worship. The way they moved to the music – they were singing and dancing, and clapped loudly and enthusiastically after each hymn.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was just what I'd hoped for, happy-clappy, interactive and rhythmic.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
I was there for 40 minutes of the sermon, but the service lasted 2 hours 30 minutes in total.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – I had a little difficulty following the accent, but this preacher was giving it absolutely everything he had, and it was encouraging to see that in doing so he was sweating nearly as much as I was! He constantly looked for responses from the congregation, and the "hallelujahs" and "amens" were very forthcoming.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The last 40 minutes of the sermon were about pursuing your spiritually discerned destiny and living in God's purpose. It included (at the very end) an altar call for those who wished to find God's purpose for their lives.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music and the congregation's enjoyment of it. I nearly wished I'd been there at 7.30am for more of it.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The heat... I thought I was in the other place! It was 30 degrees outside; the tent had 11 ceiling fans, but only seven were working; it was hot, there was no air. I could feel the sweat running down my back, which made me think of that line from The Wizard of Oz: "I'm melting!" I half expected to see a pool of water in the plastic chair when I stood up.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A bit of a line-up formed to greet me, envelopes of information about the church were thrust at me and then I was taken and introduced to the preacher. When I eventually moved outside, I was approached by a lady wearing a "hostess" badge, who brought me round for coffee.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Instant coffee with powder creamer (this is the Caribbean!) in a plastic cup. But here's the great bit. Everyone also got a paper plate with three fresh sandwiches and a great big slice of home-made cake. I guess if you'd been there from 7.30am you'd have needed it, and although I hadn't been, I accepted purely for the sake of research and this report...

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I enjoyed it. The worship was fantastic and they have a real heart for work in their own community and further afield. If I were lucky enough to live in Barbados, I'd definitely go there. The one thing that might put me off is the 7.30am start.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Still being greeted and welcomed, having my hand shaken and people from the church tooting their car horns at me as I walked back up the road to my hotel afterwards.
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