Mystery Worshipper: Old Baldhead
Church: Village Church (North)
Location: Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
Date of visit: Sunday, 15 November 2015, 4:00pm
The church service is in the Chandos Pattison Auditorium of Pacific Academy, a private Pentecostal Christian school. It's a large brick building in good shape, on the very south of the sprawling academy grounds.
The Village Church began in 2010 with 100 people and is now running five different services each Sunday at two different locations. From what I've heard, it is quite popular and draws Christians from other churches. They sponsor a number of groups for all ages that are all well described on their website.
Surrey is a municipality in the greater Vancouver area that in 2002 enjoyed the distinction of being named the car theft capital of North America. No one seems to know why crime seems more prevalent here than elsewhere. It's a city marked by urban sprawl, if that's a factor. On the other hand, the Fraser Heights neighbourhood, where Village Church North is located, is a well-to-do suburban district in the northeast corner of Surrey, well-kept, with large houses and the assumption of safety. It is separated from the rest of the city geographically by the Trans-Canada Highway, and again, perhaps that is a factor. Residents are perceived as affluent and perhaps somewhat upper-class in attitude, though all the people I know from Fraser Heights are lovely.
Worship Leader Eric Damewood and Lead Pastor Mark Clark. An unnamed man made announcements about an upcoming mission trip.
What was the name of the service?It didnt have a name that I saw, though their website refers to their services as Sunday Gatherings.
How full was the building?
The percentage of filled seats was small maybe 25 per cent, but it was a large auditorium, so there must have been several hundred people there. (Online research reveals the capacity is about 1500.)
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No one greeted me as I came in, though to be fair I arrived just as the service was starting and came in the side/back door, since that was the closest to where I ended up parking (more about that later). But no one greeted me when I found my seat or during the service at all. There was no turn and greet your neighbour time, so I didnt even get a chance to look at my neighbours.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was an auditorium, so yes! Nice, cushioned, theatre-style seats.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was dark, like a theatre when the movie is about to begin, but I came in right as the service was starting so I didn't get a chance to sit and soak in the atmosphere. However, many people came in after I did.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
Worship leader (up first): "Stand with me, Church." Missions trip guy (after initial songs): "Church, actually just stay standing for a moment." Lead pastor (after the prayer for the missions team): "Awesome. All right. Well, good day to y'all."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Although the pastor did tell us to flip to certain Bible passages, the verses were also all up on the screen.
What musical instruments were played?
Just an acoustic guitar.
Did anything distract you?
The text on the slides. The first person singular personal pronoun was not capitalized, and grammar-conscious me found it distracting. I think it was a statement about the importance of God compared to ourselves, though, since the words that were capitalized were words like Jesus, You, His, Rock, etc. It was a God font.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Heartfelt! The worship band consisted of one man who both sang and played the acoustic guitar in the middle of a very large stage not what I expected (in truth, I expected something flashy and distracting). He had a good voice and was singing from his heart. The vocals/guitar were somewhat too loud not in a painful way, but in a "I-wish-you-were-quieter-so-I-could-hear-the-fullness-of-the-church-singing" way. He did step away from the microphone several times, though, so you could hear the congregation then, which I appreciated. They sang four or five songs. The first was a hymn that I knew and liked. Then they sang two or three that I didn't know. After the sermon they ended with a single song, which I knew. I quite liked the worship time overall.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
47 minutes (but it did not seem that long).
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Mark Clark gets a whopping 9. He was a very animated and energetic preacher, but bordered on being comedic with the amount of times he made the church laugh (laughing is great, especially during sermons, but not when it seems dutiful or expected). He did get the congregation to flip through the Bible to the passages he was discussing, which I liked. However, he was hipster to the point of being distracting. Young, real chill, t-shirt, jeans, trendy shoes, styled hair, scruff, the cool-guy hand gestures, sitting on a chair, approachable and relatable. This is just me being overly critical – I actually quite enjoyed listening to him, loved his knowledge of the Bible, and didn't get bored.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Matthew 7:1-13 (mostly 1-6). Be discerning in your judging, taking into account the "Do not judge" (7:1) but also the need to recognize dogs and swine when you see them (7:6). He also talked about specks and planks, and the importance of having a Nathan in your life someone who can challenge you and call you out when you need it. Good stuff.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The congregational worship. I felt like participating (which is not a weekly occurrence for me). It felt meaningful, and I felt the Holy Spirit there.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Trying to find parking. I had to drive past the main parking lot (I didn't even bother looking for a spot in there), around the building, and nope, those spots are all filled, keep driving. Go around the track, and there! There are some open spots! Now take the next four minutes to walk back to the building. On the plus side, though, I was parked very close to the exit.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. No one approached me. But to be fair, I didn't approach any of the other people standing alone either. As a side note, this is the downfall of a large church not knowing who is a newbie and who is an old timer.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I didn't have any. They were serving some drinks (not sure what) from a cafe-like area in the foyer, but I wasn't sure if they were giving out drinks or selling them. They were probably free, but I wasn't parched enough to find out.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – Hmm. It was a great service that I quite enjoyed, and it was well-organized. However, I didn't know anyone or belong to any group, so I did feel like it would be quite easy to remain anonymous and get lost in such a large church, and to keep yourself on the fringes.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. I feel like God is worshipped and listened to in that church, and I felt I connected with him/heard from him when I was there.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Two things: The enjoyable worship music led by the one guy, and the animation/energy of the pastor.