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2914: Shanklin United Reformed, Isle of Wight
xShanklin URC, Isle of Wight
Photo: Editor5807 and used under license
Mystery Worshipper: Isla White.
The church: Shanklin United Reformed, Isle of Wight.
Denomination: United Reformed Church.
The building: The present building was opened in 1883, replacing two earlier churches. It is very churchlike in appearance, dominated by a huge clock tower. The tower suffered damage during World War II but has been fully restored. The interior is bright and cheery under a vaulted wooden ceiling. The pews have been removed and replaced by chairs more or less facing the communion table, which is on a platform backed by the apse. I say "more or less" because, being chairs, they can be reconfigured to suit a variety of purposes. The organ has also been removed. There is a coffee bar at the back.
The church: They are recipients of the Child Friendly Church Award, which recognises special efforts aimed at youth. In addition to junior church, they sponsor a variety of other activities for children aged five to eighteen, and "CatURrpillars" for younger children and their parents. For adults there are prayer groups, Bible study, and a variety of social activities. Great concern is shown for the Suffering Church through prayer groups drawn from several local churches focusing on persecuted Christians worldwide. Please see their website for a description of their many other activities.
The neighbourhood: Shanklin is a seaside town situated in the southeast part of the Isle of Wight. The first church building stood at the edge of the town, but the area is now gob smack in town centre. The Shanklin Chine, a geographic feature rich with waterfalls, trees and lush vegetation, was taken over during World War II by a secret petrol pipeline from England to France known as PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean), which the Germans never detected. Fragments of PLUTO are still visible today.
The cast: Three young people in their late teens or early 20s known only as Jodie, Becka and Lydia. This was a service led by the youth.
The date & time: Sunday, 30 August 2015, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Worship for All Ages.

How full was the building?
About one-third full, with all ages represented. Loads of young people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A gentleman standing outside the church welcomed us, asking where we had come from. Two people inside then chatted to us, one at length, asking our names. Someone also said hello as they sat in front of us.

Was your pew comfortable?
Comfortable padded wooden chairs. These were useful when the worship went on rather longer than one might have expected.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The worship group (all teens and early 20s) were rehearsing and people were talking loudly. The coffee bar is inside the main room, so there was a lot of noise. This continued even after the group finished their rehearsal. An elderly couple joined the worship group and they huddled together with their arms around each other praying. The worship group resumed their places but didn't play, and people continued talking loudly until the worship leader finally said ...

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, everybody. Its great to be here."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Holy Bible, New International Version. The words for all the songs were on the screen, and large print hard copies were available.

What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, guitar, flute (unfortunately could not be heard even though there was a microphone), cajon drum played by a headless player (well, his head was obscured by the music stand).

Shanklin URC, Isle of Wight (Headless drummer)

Did anything distract you?
Two massive bluebottle flies that kept dive-bombing the person sitting in front of us. The two female singers were wearing skin tight leggings and short tops. One kept jiggling the lower part of her body in time to the music. Im sure this was in no way meant to be suggestive, but it was distracting nonetheless. I was brought up in a tradition that holds that one does not notice, erm, those parts of a woman.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Respectful, joyful, heavenly (but rather long winded).

Exactly how long was the sermon?
28 minutes (including a long Bible reading).

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – The preacher was in her early 20s and made some good points. With practice and maturity she will get really good. Unfortunately she kept reading large sections of her sermon notes silently to herself, then said "OK" and summarised out loud what shed read.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
God created the world. He knows what he is doing. We are here for a reason. He knows we are weak because he created us. He will equip us with everything we need. Our weaknesses should never be used as a justification for our sins.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Seeing so many teenagers and young adults enjoying worshipping the Lord.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
During the service, the spotlights at the front were turned on. One was shining directly into my eyes I am photophobic. From that point onward I had to keep my head down, so I could scarcely look at the preacher and could only sing the songs I knew from memory.

Shanklin URC, Isle of Wight (Interior)

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people came up and had long chats with us. We were encouraged to return if we felt that was where the Lord wanted us to be. (I'm game, but he'll have to dim the lights, I'm afraid.)

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Nice large mugs, piping hot drinks, good selection of biscuits.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – It was so nice to be in a church with a strong representation of all ages and good outreach into the community.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The headless drummer.
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