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212: Christ Church, Mobile, Alabama, USA
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Christ Church, Mobile, Alabama
Mystery Worshipper: Profane Saint.
The church: Christ Church, Mobile, Alabama, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: This was the first Protestant church in the State of Alabama, dating back to 1823, and the Greek Doric building was completed in 1841. Through the years, beautiful stained glass memorial windows have been added (two of which are Tiffany windows), depicting biblical themes from the creation of the world to the second coming of Christ. A Hook & Hastings organ was installed in 1907 and was enhanced in 1988 with new ranks, continuing mutations, mixtures and additional reeds. It is now an instrument of 3,188 total pipes. The aisle floors are adorned with small mosaic tiles. The floor of the altar, baptismal font and many areas are made of white Carrera marble. An immense iconostasis of quarter-sawn oak with a gold mosaic icon of Christ is the focal point of the entire sanctuary.
The neighbourhood: The church is in the downtown area of Mobile, in a neighborhood that was once residential. Today, it is bounded on one side by an interstate highway and its tunnel, which passes under the Mobile River, and on the other three sides by city and county government buildings. A rebuilt historic Fort Conde is one block away.
The cast: Rev. Conlee Bodishbaugh was the officiant and preacher, while Rev. Tim Smith was the celebrant.
What was the name of the service?
12 Pentecost, Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist (Rite II).

How full was the building?
Three-quarters full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, several friendly greetings.

Was your pew comfortable?
Nice cushions on the seats made these antique wooden pews very comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Reverential, with softly-spoken, casual conversations.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"This is Christ Church and it is Christ's Church!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A prayer book, hymn book and the scriptures, plus a contemporary worship song lyric sheet.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ, piano and guitar.

Did anything distract you?
Minor microphone problems.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
This is one of the finest examples of blended worship I have experienced. It included quite a bit of contemporary music and some charismatic expressions, such as raised hands. During the modern songs, they used piano and guitar. The pipe organ was used mainly for the processional and recessional hymns. Personally, I would have enjoyed much more of the organ and traditional hymns, especially during the earlier part of the service. The liturgy was followed pretty closely, keeping the feel of the service in balance. All in all, it was a heart-felt and sincere worship experience.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
25 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Rev. Bodishbaugh, the co-rector, is a very good speaker. He communicates with sincerity, passion and humility.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon topic was based on Deuteronomy 4:1-9, dealing with the Israelites taking possession of the Promised Land, and God's admonition to obey his truth and to pass this down to their descendants. He discussed our human tendencies to try to conform God into our image. Our good intentions are not the standard by which our lives, doctrines and standards are to be based on.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
A newly-baptized child was carried around the church accompanied by a special song. Being a member of a church that does not practice infant baptism, this was a real treat for me. Next to this, the communion was wonderful.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Not that bad... but a pastoral letter from the Bishop was read, informing of two parishes within the diocese that had recently left their ranks. This brought somewhat of a somber feeling to the service.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was at a disadvantage to objectively analyze this, since I know quite a few of the members from community involvement. I spoke with many and was introduced to many.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The coffee in styrofoam cups was above average – better than McDonalds. Tea and fruit juice was also available.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9. I probably would if I were not where I know I should be for now.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Very much. I felt united with the Body of Christ, present and past.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The struggle to live out our faithfulness to Christ and his truth.
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