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8: St John's Cathedral, Denver, Colorado
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Downtown Denver
Mystery Worshipper: The Physicist.
The church: St John's Cathedral (aka St John in the Wilderness), Denver, Colorado.
Denomination: Episcopal Church, USA.
The building: Gothic.
The neighbourhood: Urban, somewhat run-down.
The cast: The celebrant was Rev. Sarah A. Butler, Canon Pastor.
What was the name of the service?
Festival Eucharist on the Day of Pentecost (Holy Eucharist: Rite II with Holy Baptism).

How full was the building?
Completely. I'd guess in excess of 500.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
On the way in, the bishop of the diocese greeted me.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, as pews go.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I arrived in the midst of the organ prelude. There was a little chatter of people greeting one another.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
'Alleluia. Christ is risen.'

What books did the congregation use during the service?
For this special service, everything was printed in the bulletin.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ, hand bells and Native American drums and bells.

Did anything distract you?
I was a bit distracted by the fact that the church had gone to its summer hours that day. It was only by divine providence that I arrived in time. During the service, there was a pow-wow on the lawn just outside, but it didn't drown out the service.

Lakota Dancers

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was a pretty typical Episcopal liturgy, except for a Native American contribution. They wore traditional clothes, and danced in procession down the aisle. The music may have been a Lakota translation of 'Amazing Grace', but it was hard to tell. After the baptisms came a Lakota 'Four Directions' ceremony: 'In the Lakota tradition, the four directions represent the four Gospels, the four winds, and the four great nations of the world's peoples. They are offered in honor of those who have been baptized, that they may grow to honor and respect the peoples of the four nations – Black, White, Yellow and Red.'

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Just long enough. Inexactly, about 15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5. She delivered a well-crafted sermon, but referred to a previous sermon, of which visitors could have no knowledge. A few days later, I can recall very little of what she said.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The use of the word 'power' by Jesus, in the baptismal rite, and by Christians in general, is quite different from its use by secular society.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Not much. The closest was the ringing of the handbells at the reading of the Gospel, which added a nice ethereal touch.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The congregation was invited to watch the Fifth Annual Peji Toh-Wi Wachipi – the 'Season of the Grass Turning Green Pow-Wow'. I stood on the outskirts with my two traveling bags (I had arrived in town only hours earlier), but I was not obviously enough marked as a visitor to the church for someone to greet me.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no coffee because of the pow-wow.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6. Although I'd feel more at home in a smaller congregation.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, mostly because of the inclusion of the Lakota.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The Lakota dancing and music, and the pow-wow afterward.

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