Family Service, 1st September 2013, 11.30am
Chair Person: Sandra Lindsay
Speaker: Steve Packwood
Last week in Musselburgh, I wondered where all the men had gone. Maybe they were at Bellevue Chapel, which seems to have a gender balance tipping more towards the masculine, and a congregation of all ages. With seating for approximately 120, they must have had somewhere between 90 and 100 today, which isn’t bad going compared with some of the other churches I’ve seen this year.
Forewarned is forearmed. I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy the music, described on the Bellevue Chapel website as “contemporary worship led by a praise band”, but even of its kind it was pretty grim – thunderingly aggressive piano obliterating any hint of guitar or base guitar, and an entirely inaudible female vocalist who might as well have been miming alongside her booming male companion. The tech guys in the gallery were busily sound-testing when I arrived, but clearly to no avail. The songs, one from Mission Praise and two from Bellevue’s own supplement, Sing to the Glory of His Name, were instantly forgettable, but I had to smile inwardly at the last one, “We stand and lift up our hands”. We stood, but nobody lifted their hands – a far cry from all the fervent swaying and air punching at the likes of Central, Elim and Hope!
But singing aside, it was a reasonably interesting morning. No bible readings as such, though, which was a bit of a surprise. Their evening services promise “extended bible teaching”, so I’m guessing that would be the time to go if you want to hear scriptures and sermons. But this morning all we got were a few snippets from Amos 5 in connection with the Martin Luther King anniversary and a couple more verses from Romans 10 to round off guest speaker Steve Packwood’s talk about his work on a mission ship, the Logos Hope.
Steve, who is the UK director of development for OM Ships, has a slightly disconcerting tic of licking his lips every few words as he talks. Once you’ve noticed it, you can’t not notice it, so I tried not to look directly at him, concentrating instead on the rather pretty rose window and the other stained glass, partially obscured by the projector screen so that the three saints were visible only from the waist down and I couldn’t work out who they were supposed to be, or indeed why Bellevue bothers to illuminate the glass with electric light (what was once an external wall now backs on to an extension) if only to cover it up again.
Distractions aside, it looks as if the crew of the Logos Hope have a whale of a time sailing the world to minister in every exotic port you can imagine. And after the video about life on board and a bit of a pep talk about donations, Steve turned to the preachiest bit of his talk, reminding us that Christians are to obey the commandment to go and made disciples of all the world, an order that has never been countermanded since Jesus walked the earth, and that they should not feel overwhelmed by the size of the need in this lost world, because every little helps.
There were a couple of other missionaries too, who had been to Burundi to support a project that teaches former prostitutes tailoring skills. Mission seems to be a big deal with Bellevue, as does church planting, although exactly how their denomination is structured (if Brethren are indeed organised as a denomination) isn’t something I could determine from their website.
They seem cheery enough, though, and they do serve a fine cup of coffee, but that music … oh dear, that is something I really don’t want to hear again.