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209: Church of the Transfiguration, Arcadia, California
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Church of the Transfiguration, Arcadia
Mystery Worshipper: Eagle Eye.
The church: Church of the Transfiguration, Arcadia, California.
Denomination: Episcopal Church, USA.
The building: Small, Spanish-style church in a town near Pasadena, California. There is a single aisle with the pews abutting the walls on either side. Pews are short – five adults maximum per pew. A placard near the door says that the maximum capacity is 170, but that surely includes the entire altar party, choir and organist.
The neighbourhood: Suburban area with modest, single family homes near the Sierra Madre mountains. Its proximity to the mountains accounts for the name of the parish.
The cast: No names were given.
What was the name of the service?
The Holy Eucharist, Rite II.

How full was the building?
I'd say that there were about 75-80 people there, spread around so that it seemed nicely full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
An usher handed us a bulletin with a wordless smile. However, during the passing of the peace there was a general free-for-all and even the priest made his way back to the Mystery Worshipper and his family. During the announcements, which occurred following the passing of the peace and before the beginning of the communion, he introduced us and another visitor to the congregation.

Was your pew comfortable?
Standard stuff – padded with kneeler. The kneelers were a little on the small side and seemed to be positioned to hit the middle of the shin, rather than the knee.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Modestly chatty.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Send out your light and your truth..."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Book of Common Prayer 1978 and Hymnal 1982. Pew racks also held the small 1928 version of the Book of Common Prayer and the bulletin mentioned that the 8.00am service was taken from that book.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano.

Did anything distract you?
The Mystery Worshipper was briefly distracted when the priest mentioned that the sermon would consist of a meditation on the new stained glass in the church using music, words and interpretive dance. It was difficult to suppress a smile, remembering previous encounters with interpretive dance: occasional glimpses of jiggling cellulite and a lot of determined staring at the back of the pew in front, another glimpse, more jiggling, etc.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was a middle-of-the-road Episcopal service with a sung preface to the communion.

Church of the Transfiguration, Arcadia

Exactly how long was the sermon?
The dancing and related music and speaking lasted 24 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
We never really found out. This was the Feast of the Transfiguration and therefore the patronal feast for this parish. The interpretive dance to recorded music was interspersed with brief explanations by the priest. We were invited to contemplate the windows. The interpretive dance was sensitive and evocative – nothing jiggled. However, the focus was on the windows, the dancer and the music, so it is difficult to assess the preacher. Since his comments really were brief, I'd give him a 6 for resisting the temptation to talk too much.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The windows. The effect was to remind us that God can be experienced in many ways – not all of them explained or explainable with words.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
None, really.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Not really devilish, but the hymns selected for the processional and the recessional were set to the same tune. By the end of the service, when the congregation sang the last verse of "Hail to the Lord's Annointed," they had sung the same tune 10 times in an hour and had it down cold. A parishioner later explained that the organist-choirmaster was not the regular.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. We had to leave directly after the service, but there was what appeared to be coffee and ice tea or punch on a tea cart in the courtyard. Most parishioners made a bee-line for it immediately after the service. Remember, this is Southern California, where nice weather is the rule, rather than the exception.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Indescribable – see above.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
There are a number of other Episcopal Churches in the area, so I would have to assess the competition, but I really liked the friendly feel of this place. The priest was both interested in us and very welcoming. I'd give them an 8, but I'd have to go back on a "regular" Sunday.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I have this tune running through my mind...

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