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247: St Peter, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida
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St Peter, Fernandina Beach, Florida
Mystery Worshipper: Preacher's Kidd.
The church: St Peter, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida.
Denomination: Episcopalian.
The building: A combination of standard English Gothic and Spanish cream-colored stucco and tile. It sounds odd, but is actually very lovely.
The neighbourhood: The church is located in the downtown historic area, a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. There are some restored buildings, offices and shops that cater to the tourist trade.
The cast: The celebrant was Rev. Elizabeth Trappe (the Associate Rector), and the preacher was Rev. George D. Young, III (the Rector).
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist, Rite II, Pentecost 23, the 9.00am service. This Sunday was the culmination of the church's stewardship campaign and was listed as "Celebration Day". It was also a once-a-month folk mass.

How full was the building?
About two-thirds full – perhaps 150 people. This was the middle of three Sunday masses.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We came for the 9.00am service, and arrived before the 7.30am service had concluded. The congregation is large enough that the members wear name tags, similar to company ID badges, and there is a small tent or marquee by the side door where the folks pick them up on the way in and drop them off after services. We were asked if we minded wearing a sticky badge, and chatted with the usher for a while. During the Peace, a gentleman complimented Mrs Kidd on her "lovely red hair"!

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were padded, but had very straight backs, which we found uncomfortable. They are old pews and probably built for shorter people.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A bit of coming and going, with early church folks leaving and 9 o'clock-ers coming in, but not noisy. A few murmured conversations.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"The congregation is asked to please stand."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
This was a folk mass and the hymns and readings were printed in the bulletin, but we were referred to the Book of Common Prayer for the prayers.

What musical instruments were played?
Six guitars and a harmonica. The rector was one of the guitarists, and was not vested.

Did anything distract you?
The stained glass windows seemed to have been installed at different times, and designed by folks who hadn't seen the other windows. They were each quite nice, but the total effect was – well, not exactly jarring, but a bit odd.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
This was the first folk mass we had ever attended, and was much more "dignified" than we expected. Mr Kidd comes from a Deep South background, and avoids these things completely, and Mrs Kidd is a hard-core 1928er. We both really, really enjoyed the service it made us pay attention to what was going on. Perhaps the first Christians found the new service a radical change from the synagogue or temple they grew up in.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Because we were "outsiders" and not familiar with what was obviously an established custom, the sermon seemed a bit disjointed, but that is really just a minor quibble, as his message was clear and meaningful in the context in which is was presented.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Fr. Young spoke on different types of giving: grudge giving, duty giving, and thanks giving. Because this was Celebration Sunday, the congregation filed up and placed their offerings in the alms basin on the altar, and then placed a symbol of something for which they were thankful on a small table off to the side.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The entire service. When we said the Lord's Prayer, everyone in the pew held hands. When we went up for communion, we had a chance to glance at the Thanksgiving Table to see what people had placed there. There were yellow construction workers' hats, family pictures and trinkets which had some special meaning to the person. We wondered what we would have left there as a sign of all that God had given us. It was deeply moving.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Truly, nothing at all – in spite of our misgivings about a folk mass.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Unfortunately, we had to bolt after communion to catch a plane. All things considered, we feel sure we would have received a warm welcome. They did offer a breakfast after the 7.30am service and invited us to that while we were waiting outside.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – Judging from the notices in the bulletin, this is a large, busy congregation, full of friendly people. We both agreed we would feel very much at home here.

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 table heaped with thanksgiving tokens... and the man who liked Mrs Kidd's red hair!
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