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120: Trinity, Asheville, North Carolina, USA
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Trinity, Asheville, North Carolina
Mystery Worshipper: Preacher's Kidd.
The church: Trinity, Asheville, North Carolina, USA.
Denomination: Episcopalian.
The building: A delightful Gothic rabbit warren, currently in the midst of major renovation, and a lovely garden.
The neighbourhood: Other than a transient hotel across the street, the church is located in a downtown business district. I don't think there are any private homes within several miles.
The cast: Fr Bill Whisenhunt.
What was the name of the service?
Choral Eucharist, Pentecost 17.

How full was the building?
About three quarters full – I'd estimate 300 people, which is phenomenal, considering the neighborhood. A wide range of ages, from the elderly to a good many small – and very well behaved – children.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No. We arrived at 10:30 for a 10:45 service, and entered through a side door, where we picked up a bulletin from a table. When we walked into the church, an usher said, "Oh, you have one," and turned away. The bulletin listed vestry greeters, in addition to the ushers, but they were not obvious.

Was your pew comfortable?
Standard wooden pew, but quite comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A bit of quiet bustle, with folks greeting each other. About five minutes before the service started, there was a cello performance of the Kol Nedre, as this was the weekend of the Jewish high holy days.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome to Trinity Parish." One of the vestry members then stepped forward to announce that Fr Whisenhunt, who had been a supply priest, had accepted the call to become the church's new rector. This was greeted with a standing ovation.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Book of Common Prayer and the 1982 Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ (and the cello mentioned earlier).

Did anything distract you?

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was very impressive (full-blown High Church style) and even made Rite II seem reverential (I'm a 1928-er, myself). The processional was a "cast of thousands" – two crucifers, acolytes with white gloves, choir, lay readers, banner bearer, and a young lady carrying the Gospel book.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – it is difficult to come up with a fresh approach to a theme that's been done to death, but Fr Whisenhunt did an excellent job.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Jesus's parable of the landowner who paid all of his workers the same wage, no matter when they had started work that day. We should be glad that God doesn't give us what we deserve. We may think we've been working all day, but he might feel we only showed up at quarter to five.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The chanting of the psalms by the congregation. It's been a long time since I've heard that done, and it really was heavenly.

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

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The congregation really fell down on this one. We stood and gawked like tourists for a few moments, and then finally asked a lady to direct us to the coffee hour. We were told it was rather confusing (the place is a Victorian rabbit warren, undergoing renovations) so we brightly suggested she lead us there. None too eagerly, she complied; maybe she had to get home and fix dinner.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The coffee was quite good, served in real cups, and someone had made fresh bagels. The fellow who was pouring introduced himself, but he was the only person to speak to us voluntarily. My husband, who is head usher at our home parish, tried to strike up a conversation with a fellow he recognized as having taken up the collection, but was given very short answers.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3, maybe 4. We came away with very mixed feelings. The worship service is lovely, but the congregation seems very much a closed corporation.

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 glow on the face of the young lady carrying the Gospel. She was as radiant as a bride.
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