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146: St Matthias, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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St Matthias, Edmonton
Mystery Worshipper: Joan of Arch.
The church: St Matthias, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Denomination: Anglican Church of Canada.
The building: The cutest little cube you ever saw. Over the altar is a blue stained-glass cross window. Very white inside with simple wood railings, but not in a utilitarian or Oliver Cromwell sort of way.
The neighbourhood: Typical Canadian suburb, sleepy and quiet as everyone snuggles down in their long winter's nap.
The cast: Fr. Neil Gorden.
What was the name of the service?
Remembrance Day.

How full was the building?
Almost full, though not uncomfortably so.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
During the announcements, a parishioner stood up and asked us gruffly to introduce ourselves. This was kind of embarrassing, and our host was mortified. We just said, "Hi, I'm _____ from Ontario".

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were outstanding, though unusual. When the church was built eight years ago, they hadn't any money for permanent seats, so they bought lawn chairs as a temporary measure. People came to like them so much that pews were never bought. Although it's a bit of a shock coming in, even if you have been prepared in advance, I found the chairs very comfortable. Flexibility is nothing to sneeze at either.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
We were late. All of this is lost to posterity.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The typical Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada and an old friend – the Hymn Book of the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada.

What musical instruments were played?
Just organ and voice.

Did anything distract you?
The lawn chairs as we walked in.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Friendly, like being in a high school class. We stood up, laughed at the minister's jokes, and received his criticism solemnly. The sung prayer seemed totally natural, and the Peace was totally organic to the sense of community in the room. I was pleasantly shocked to see the older couple in front of us smooch right at the beginning of the Peace. Very relaxed without distracting enthusiasm.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
20 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9. Wonderful, wonderful preacher. He didn't beat around the bush or give an overly comfortable sermon, but neither was he about instilling fear in his listeners. Wonderful motivation, lots of connection with the congregation.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The need for readiness and the importance of proper place in public events, illustrated by Jesus's parable of the ten virgins.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The effectiveness of the sermon was motivating and interesting. And I'm told that this was a cold sermon, without much participation.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The brief embarrassment of standing in the middle of the announcements.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A number of people came over to chat about our experiences in visiting Edmonton. I tend to feel very awkward in such situations, but they struck the right note between friendliness and respect of our privacy.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
They served coffee and cookies, but as there was a donation jar and I hadn't brought my wallet, I didn't partake.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8. If I was living in Edmonton in the near future, I would be quite tempted to make a temporary conversion. I had a good time.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it did. I didn't feel that the concepts of theology were over my head or that I was being talked down to or that I wasn't the intended audience. I liked feeling a brief part of that community.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The older people smooching.
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