|93: Calvary, Santa Cruz, California|
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Mystery Worshipper: Augustine the Aleut.
The church: Calvary, Santa Cruz, California.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA).
The building: Genteel brick Gothic, smallish, with impressive stained glass of the turn of the century (I especially liked St Cecilia) and spirited arte-nouveau-esque candle brackets at the end of each pew. There was a small compound of parish buildings and offices around the place, housing day-care and stuff like that.
The neighbourhood: On the fringe of renovated (or perhaps never deterioriated) downtown, with both prosperous and funky aspects. Woman's bookstore down the street, and some good coffee-houses nearby. The parish is old for white folks' California, and clearly preceded Santa Cruz the beach town, artists' colony or university town.
The cast: Judging from the parish's website, I think it was associate priest Robert Rible. And, I might add, he crossed his stole, which few priests seem to do anymore. I don't know the reader/subdeacon's name, but she gets a good mention.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About a quarter full, with 25-30 individuals, a respectable number for that time of day. The congregation was white (mind you,I saw no blacks in Santa Cruz in two days) but about three or four persons might have been Hispanic.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was about 10 minutes late, to the point where I almost did not come in. However, the sidesman noticed me as I slithered in and quietly ensured that I had a prayerbook.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a fine pew, and not too bad as they go. The kneeler was at a good height for me, which I suppose makes it uncomfortable for others. Oh well...
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I missed it as I somehow thought that all early masses were at 8.30am, and did not remember that the website (which was how I found the parish) clearly stated 8.00am. This may have been subconscious on my part, as the last American church I went to featured a hymn sing to curb gossiping before the service.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
A mystery to me, as I arrived during the epistle.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The ECUSA Prayer Book.
What musical instruments were played?
As it was an early mass, there was no music.
Did anything distract you?
Not in an inappropriate way (for a change, as I am easily distracted). I admired the stained glass, wondering if the figures were representations of donors in the guise of saints.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was very quiet, but a tranquil and spiritual quiet, rather than a boring or good-as-dead quiet (not unknown in Anglican churches).
Exactly how long was the sermon?
A good 10 minutes, perhaps a little more.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 I very much liked the sermon and his delivery. There are many for whom his sermon and delivery would have been too intellectual or thoughtful, or would have required too close attention.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
About understanding and acceptance at a deep level, referring wisely and impartially to many of the Episcopal Church's recent controversies and divisions.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The tranquillity and diligence of the priest and reader, and the congregation. The church seemed really peaceful, as opposed to dead. Both priest and reader did their part without any affectation or flourish.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
None, really... aside from the Peace, which has always annoyed me, but which was very quietly and respectfully carried out here.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing, and I didn't want it to. The two people I sat near said hello to me as I left. While mindful of the Mystery Worshipper's desire to know about the aprés-service welcome, I was rendered much too peaceful by the service to thoroughly perform my reportorial duty. That's life. I did notice that only two or three people were chatting after the service, and others were toddling away, much like myself, to brunch with their friends (although they were not likely to be having brunch with a women's rock band, as I was).
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There didn't seem to be any.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
I'll give them a 10. The simple and unfussy devotion of the priest, reader and congregation is right up my alley, although there's days I might miss some excitement. I noticed that the sidesman's car with its Dole/Kemp sticker was parked across the street from a 4WD vehicle with a rainbow sticker, driven by a cheerful parishioner in birkenstocks. While I'm neither Republican nor lesbian, a parish which can manage that kind of diversity and respect might be a good place to be. I might note that, later that day, I spotted another of the parishoners at Bonny Doon beach (a local naturist spot), working on her overall tan, chatting with a mustachioed gentleman.
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 two cars, and a quiet church on a quiet summer morning in California.