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2569: Parsons Pond Gospel Hall, Parsons Pond, Newfoundland, Canada
Parsons Pond Gospeh Hall, Newfoundland
Mystery Worshipper: Ronnie.
The church: Parsons Pond Gospel Hall, Parsons Pond, Newfoundland, Canada.
Denomination: Non-denominational, in the tradition of the Plymouth Brethren.
The building: This auditorium-like building was constructed in the 60s, I would guess. It is multi-purpose with no permanent pews inside. They put up chairs for the service and I expect they take them down when they wish to use the hall for another purpose. The floor was a light-coloured tile and the walls were painted white. The congregation sat almost in a square configuration around the communion table but with no one sitting on the side that faced a large mural, about which I'll have much more to say in a moment. There was no cross or decoration of any kind save the elements that were to be used for communion.
The church: It is a very small, elderly congregation. I am sorry to say that we were handed no materials on their church and did not note if there was a bulletin board, so I cannot say what their outreach activities might be.
The neighbourhood: Parson's Pond is a tiny village just a short drive north of Gros Morne Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and The Arches Park. It is surrounded by beautiful scenery and is located on the ocean.
The cast: There did not seem to be any leader per se, but there were several people who would stand up and cite a Bible verse, offer a prayer or begin singing a hymn. Mr Harvey Payne was one of those who participated. The others did not introduce themselves to us.
The date & time: June 8, 2013, 11.00am. [Editor's note: This report was filed July 26, 2013.]

What was the name of the service?
Sunday morning service.

How full was the building?
It is difficult to ascertain fullness when there are no fixed pews but I think it's fair to say that it was roughly one-tenth full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No one beforehand. We arrived just as the service was beginning.

Was your pew comfortable?
The chairs we sat on were very comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Unfortunately we only entered about two minutes prior to commencement of the service.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Let us worship the Lord."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A hymn book and Bibles.

What musical instruments were played?
None whatsoever. All singing was a capella.

Did anything distract you?
At the very front of the interior there was a large stage that told a story of salvation. It had many illustrations on it and many Bible verses – all about going to hell and how not to. But perhaps that was the idea should someone who is not saved enter the church.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was stiff-upper lip and very stiff in all respects. No one smiled. No one even seemed to make eye contact with anyone else other during the service. The hymns were sung like dirges to a very slow, slow beat.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
No sermon.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Ummm ... everything? When they served communion we were not invited to take part in it. The other main thing was the complete lack of joy: no joy in the singing, no animation in the citing of Bible verses. Some loud horrible singers and the horrible, distracting mural on the stage. The mural told about how man had fallen, and what would happen to us as a consequence of our sin and what we must do to be saved. It was very busy and unattractive.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were very warmly greeted by almost everyone and had a nice chat. One gentleman and his wife invited us to their home for lunch. There was no coffee served at the church. I felt great – but it did not make up for the discomfort I felt at being treated like an outsider at communion time.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none. We declined the gentleman's invitation to lunch, as we had a long drive ahead of us that day and it was shortly after noon already.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
0 – Because of the lack of joy in the worship and the exclusivity of the communion table, I would not make this my regular church if I lived there.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not at all.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The joylessness of it all.
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