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2579: York Community Church, York, England
York Community Church (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Organo Pleno.
The church: York Community Church, York, England.
Denomination: Independent evangelical.
The building: They meet at Burnholme Community College, a secondary school in the Tang Hall suburb of York. The service itself was held in the school hall with the music group on the existing stage.
The church: Established in 1993, YCC describes itself as a "real mixed bag of believers, varying in age, social backgrounds and Christian experience." The church supports a large number of different projects, including running a food bank, being the location of the local debt centre for Christians Against Poverty, and supporting a number of missionaries abroad.
The neighbourhood: The amusingly (and apparently at times appropriately) named Bad Bargain Lane, where the building is located, is on the outskirts of Tang Hall, a suburb east of the city centre often referred to as "the closest thing York has to a rough neighbourhood." Despite its reputation, Tang Hall is still a popular area, particularly with university students, due to the proximity to the campus.
The cast: Pastor Simon Rennie, who delivered the sermon and led the service, apart from two songs that were led by a man named Stephen. The names of the other three musicians were not given. The two greeters had name badges, but I only got a glance at the badge labeled "Norman."
The date & time: Sunday, 18 August 2013, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Morning Worship.

How full was the building?
At a very rough guess, the building was two-thirds to three-quarters full. There were around 60-70 people present.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I initially mistook an open fire door at the back for the main entrance, and only got a quick "Hello" from a man setting up a banner. However, I was soon approached by Pastor Simon, who greeted me like an old friend and pointed out my mistake. When I went back to the real entrance, I was shaken warmly by the hand by "Norman" and handed a news sheet.

Was your pew comfortable?
The seats were simple moulded plastic chairs, typical of a school hall. They were very comfortable despite having no cushions.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very casual and informal. I arrived ten minutes early and people were still erecting banners and putting out chairs while the music group sound-checked and tuned up. The congregation stood around chatting to each other until the service itself started. No music was playing.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
Simon: "Good morning, everyone. Welcome to York Community Church. I encourage you to find a seat." He then went on to apologise for technical problems with the mounted projector and poor quality of the temporary replacement, encouraging people with difficulty seeing the screen to move forward.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Other than the news sheet, nothing was given. Rather, everything that was needed was projected onto a screen at the front. Many members of the congregation had brought their own Bibles to refer to.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano, guitar, bass guitar, drum kit.

Did anything distract you?
The usual array of noisy children found in most churches. In particular, one sat directly behind me who was making noises throughout the service. It got quieter after the children left for separate activities. The other major distraction was my struggle to hear the vocalist at the front over the rest of the band.

York Community Church (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Contemporary, happy-clappy. Thankfully not an attempt to sound like something off a CD. It was very informal and very ably led by Simon, who put his heart and soul into it the whole way through.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
40 minutes, 45 including the prayer that followed.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – According to a couple of people afterwards, the sermon today was a lot longer than usual. However, it was still very engaging throughout. Simon obviously knew most of the congregation very well and often referred to individual people by name during the service.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was part of a series on King David, this week focusing on his affair with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11. David's actions were as a result of his neglect of his duty and responsibility, and his selfishness, leading to irrationality. Our past sins are covered by the blood of Jesus, but the grace of God works alongside that specifically to teach and guide us to live a life according to God's will and the Bible.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I got a lot out of the sung worship. The music group made no attempt to emulate any particular styles or famous worship leaders. Rather, they had their own distinctive style, which was very refreshing to hear. The classic rock style of the opening song was a good way of getting the worship underway.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Action songs! The bane of my life when I'm not safely behind a piano with a solid excuse not to join in. We had two kids' songs in this service, including "Jesus, you're my superhero" ("Yeah, yeah, yeah, better than Spiderman, better than Batman," etc.), and a comment from Stephen at the front that he "didn't want to see anyone not joining in the actions."

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I got a smile or a hello from everyone who caught my eye, but only one or two people came up and started a conversation with me. I was approached by a lovely older lady who asked my name and where I was from. She apparently made a point of going round to all the visitors to the church and saying hello.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
A good hot strong cup of tea in a polystyrene cup. The cup was deceptively large and held a decent amount of liquid. There was also cold squash for people who didn't want hot drinks. There was a large array of biscuits laid out on trays, including (to my delight) chocolate malted milk biscuits.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – The church had a very nice community feel to it where everyone appeared to know everyone else, although to me it appeared slightly insular at times. It was still a very good community to be in and it was very clear that I would be welcome back.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
The sermon reminded me that I still have a way to go in my walk with God, but the service made me glad I was walking with him.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Probably the quality of the "emergency projector." I do hope and pray the usual one is repaired soon.
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