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111: St Philip's, Nashville, Tennessee
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St Philip's, Nashville
Mystery Worshipper: Preacher's Kidd.
The church: St Philip's, Nashville, Tennessee.
Denomination: Episcopalian.
The building: The church is fairly new, built in the late 60s or so, when the congregation outgrew their original building. Sort of "standard issue".
The neighbourhood: Upper middle-class suburban area.
The cast: Fr. Peter J. Whalen.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist, Rite II, Pentecost 18.

How full was the building?
Practically empty. There were 55 people in the church, but we were told they are a "congregation of golfers" and that the 8.00am service was packed. A nice mix of ages and races, of fathers with their children, and teenagers worshipping alone.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Absolutely! One lady waved from her car as she drove off, a man stepped ahead to open the doors for us, and handed us a – to quote him – a "menu". As the rector made his way down the aisle for the processional, he stopped at our pew to exchange a few words of welcome.

Was your pew comfortable?
No padding, but quite comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A bit of quiet bustle, with children getting settled.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning to you all."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Book of Common Prayer, the 1982 Hymnal and "Lift Every Voice and Sing II", a book of contemporary music. There was also a heavyweight sheet in the pew rack with the music for the responses, which is nice for those who aren't familiar with them.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
Not exactly a distraction, but we were intrigued by the wall behind the altar. It looked to be red leather, but was actually sponge painted.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Warm and responsive.

St Philip's, Nashville

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Actually, we had three sermons. There had been a clergy retreat on Saturday, so Fr. Whalen had not prepared an adult sermon, but he did present a five-minute children's sermon on making and keeping promises (Matthew 21:28-32).

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Two lay people also gave five minute talks. Deborah talked about evangelism, saying the Lord would give us the words we needed, and not to worry about looking foolish in the eyes of the world. Danny spoke for a few moments on the importance of stewardship.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The warmth and love of the congregation for each other, and the way they shared it with us.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nothing at all.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We hardly had a chance to look lost – any number of people stopped to speak with us. We were given a tour of the buildings and a folder describing the banners that hang in the church. When we mentioned that we were in Nashville to visit our daughter, who had just had her first baby, Fr. Whalen gave us the altar flowers to take to her!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
We were told there might not be much in the way of refreshments – "The early service folks are a hungry lot, and the late service people want to get to Shoney's (a local restaurant) ahead of the Baptists" – but there was indeed hot coffee (served in a real cup) and cookies.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10. We'd be delighted to be members here, but it's a long way from home!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, very much so.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The look on our daughter's face when we gave her the flowers.

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