|104: San Felipe de Neri, Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico|
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Mystery Worshipper: The Traveler.
The church: San Felipe de Neri, Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: The church was founded in 1706 and rebuilt after the building collapsed during the rainy season of 1792. A Spanish adobe in the shape of a cross, it was originally attached to a one-story convent for the Franciscan friars who occupied it until they were booted out by the Mexican government after its independence from Spain. Nineteenth-century additions included Jesuits, two towers atop the narthex, a second story for the convent, a school building, and restrained Victorian flourishes. The Church is now under the authority of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
The neighbourhood: The church is in the oldest part of Albuquerque, a stone's throw away from historic Route 66, on the north side of a sunny Spanish plaza. Old adobe buildings, which house businesses that cater primarily to the tourist trade (such as Native American crafts stores and restaurants) surround the plaza.
The cast: As there was no announcement as to the name of today's celebrant, I'm guessing it was the Very Rev Jerome Plotowski, who was listed as pastor in a brochure about the church.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Solidly full with approximately 300 in attendance. A special welcome was extended to all the visitors from the Albuquerque Balloon Festival.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A rather shy woman stationed at the door said "good afternoon".
Was your pew comfortable?
I'm on the smallish side and just fitted, with my knees touching the pew in front of me. A very tall, elderly man sitting to my right folded himself stiffly into his seat, and looked cramped and uncomfortable throughout the service. He handed me his cane, so I propped it against the end of the pew and hung my hat on it.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A deep hush, except for a whimpering infant in the back and a whining child just behind me.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Please stand." I heard just the murmur of a woman's voice from the front of the church, then the front half of the congregation began singing "Praise the Lord," and the people in the back joined in a measure or two later. There was no organ or musicians, yet everyone sang together and on key during the procession. Quite impressive.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A missal and two hymn books, one in English and one in Spanish. I couldn't hear the announcements about the songs, and my neighbors were singing from memory and not the hymn books, so I finally surrendered to being lost and just listened.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
Unfortunately, I was the distraction. During the consecration, the people next to me tried to lower the kneeler, but the cane I'd propped against the end of the pew had slipped down, become tangled with my hat cords, and was wedged under it. They pushed the kneeler vigorously down while I (muttering "hang on, hang on") tried to pry free the cane and hat, and finally the whole knotted mess hit the floor (and I think the elderly gent's left foot) with a loud bang.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Brisk and orderly. The whole service lasted less than 45 minutes.