Mystery Worshipper: Peeb
Church: Gateway Baptist
Location: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Date of visit: Saturday, 23 July 2011, 11:00am
A very modern appearing building set in beautiful park-like surroundings. A circular driveway brings you to the door, which opens into a large auditorium. The backdrop of the sanctuary is painted burgundy with an illuminated cross the full height of the sanctuary. The sanctuary was decorated with a panda-like theme: Chinese pagoda and backdrop, bamboo shoots all over. Apparently that was the theme at the boot camp that the children had attended (today's service marked the conclusion of Boot Camp Week).
According to the pastor, it is the children who bring their parents to the church and not the other way around! Gateway Baptist sponsors a very active Sunday school and youth programs. They are also very much into prayer, with a monthly day of prayer, healing teams, and intercession for spiritual breakthrough. They encourage members to join care groups, which they say are the primary place to experience pastoral care, support and love. There are also men's and women's ministries.
Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island and is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest. It is an attractive city, with mild, damp winters and relatively dry and mild summers, and is a popular tourist destination. The church is on Royal Oak Avenue in a very upscale neighbourhood.
The Revd Dan Rutherford, lead pastor; the Revd Aaron Dyck, associate pastor. Both wore slacks and a sport shirt. Ken Needham, founder of the worldwide ministry known as Trans-Mission, was the guest preacher.
What was the name of the service?Panda Mania Celebration – Boot Camp.
How full was the building?
I would estimate the building holds about 400 people. It was about 95 per cent full very few empty seats. There were about 50 young children up at the front in matching t-shirts. The majority of people entered about 10 minutes after the scheduled start time. Many women wore cut-offs, jeans or slacks; a few wore dresses. I did not see any three piece suits. The attire, in short, was casual.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A lovely lady named Eileen came and spoke to Mr Peeb and me. We had a fairly long conversation, as we had arrived early. A retired pastor, the Revd Peter McRaild, who had been instrumental in forming this congregation and who has been invited back to lead a series that they call Legacy, also spoke with us at length.
Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfortable, especially for someone like me with arthritic hips!
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There were many, many young people clustered outside of the church as we entered. A table had been set up at the entrance; three kinds of coffee were available on the table. The atmosphere was very joyful and uplifting. A great deal of chatting and visiting.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
The lead singer/guitar player said: "Good morning, kids! Good morning, everyone!"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
What musical instruments were played?
Piano, guitar and drums.
Did anything distract you?
Because the service was about boot camp, the whole thing was very uproarious. Little children ran all around up at the front, climbing up on the piano, etc. I didnt really mind because I am used to it, but it might have distracted anyone who was expecting a high Anglican style service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Extremely happy clappy. There were PowerPoint presentations of Bible stories, with the kids miming the stories. They had gone to boot camp to learn about Jesus: "Getting in shape to go with Jesus" was the general theme.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Ken Needham bore greatly in mind that he was speaking to many children, so he tailored his sermon for everyone to understand.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He said that his students once challenged him to turn water into wine, as Jesus did. Of course he couldn't. The Pharisees were always demanding signs of Jesus, but Jesus said there would be no signs (Mark 8:11-12). Ken also said that many times his students will tell him that Christianity is "a lot of bull" and that they want "something new". But Paul was accused of causing trouble by preaching new doctrines (Acts 17). There is nothing new about the Cross. There is nothing elevating to our finite minds about the Cross upon which Jesus died. Jesus said: 'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me." Nothing has changed in 2000 years.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The joy and happiness of the whole congregation.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I wouldn't call it being in the other place, but the music was very boring and repetitive, of the "Lord, you are cool and neat" variety. The verses were repeated multiple times. Could not at least one hymn from the 2000 year tradition of Christian hymnody have been included? Unfortunately, all too many churches have adopted this kind of "music."
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There was no hanging around looking lost. I had heard Ken Needham preach before, so Mr Peeb and I went directly up to him. We chatted, and it turns out that both he and Mr Peeb had done their national service in Catterick, Yorkshire (during the 1950s all young men had two years of compulsory military training to complete). So we had a good conversation. He thanked us for introducing ourselves and then we all went into the fellowship room.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There were various blends of coffee, tea and juices, vast amounts of brownies, carrot cake and lemon cake. I had the carrot cake, which was delicious. The coffee was very hot and excellent. Several people came and sat beside me and I had a lovely conversation with each one.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – This is the kind of church that welcomes all and has a great outreach in its community. They make disciples as Jesus commanded us to do.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Ken Needham's exegesis on Christianity: how the same objections arise now as arose 2000 years ago, but the Cross has not changed and the words of our Lord Jesus Christ have not changed.