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274: First Unitarian, Orlando, Florida, USA
Other reports | Comment on this report
First Unitarian, Orlando, Florida
Mystery Worshipper: Tom Paine.
The church: First Unitarian, Orlando, Florida, USA.
Denomination: Unitarian Universalist.
The building: They have a pleasant, if confusing, complex of buildings. Their sanctuary is sparse, with little decoration of any sort, just plain concrete block walls and an industrial ceiling with a huge red air-conditioning duct. One side of the sanctuary is dominated by huge glass windows and doors.
The neighbourhood: The church is in the middle of a residential neighborhood with a bunch of big trees.
The cast: This was a lay-led service – the two leaders were Julie Sullivan and Ann Cook. I believe they are members of the congregation.
What was the name of the service?
It was their Sunday service – the church's only weekly service.

How full was the building?
Three-quarters full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes – both a young lady (16 or so) and a man welcomed me when handing me an order of service.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, well cushioned.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The building filled up fast and the mood was talkative, with friends greeting each other.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"I'd like to welcome you to the First Unitarian Church of Orlando." This was spoken by a member of the church's board.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
They used a Unitarian Universalist hymnal, "Singing the Living Tradition."

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
The part of the service they call "Joys and Concerns". People stood up and shared special events with the congregation, and most of the congregation applauded after each joy. Clapping is just weird in a service to me.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service and congregants seemed very casual. There was occasional humor during the service and people laughed out loud. I certainly got the impression that they were a group of people who were comfortable with themselves. It was definitely not stuffy.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
18 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – It was a lay-led service, which is common in Unitarian churches. When I asked someone after the service about it they said that about a third of their services are lay led. They leaders did a good job – they were comfortable, clear, expressive and honest.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The title was "Learning to be Doers" and it was about doing service work at the church and in general. It encouraged people to volunteer and build a more active congregation.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The "words for all ages" section, when the kids came to the front and took part in the story. The kids seemed to like it and the leader got her point across.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The only thing I found bothersome was that the piano player made a few mistakes and the choir's performance wasn't all that great. They should work on that.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
One person came up to me and asked me if I was new. She said welcome and hoped I liked the service. We talked for a minute and then she left me alone and no one else talked to me, even though I was in a crowded hall. Everyone was talking to other people, just not to me.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
They had coffee, decaff, and some powdered kool-aid type drink served in styrofoam. There were pretzels, cookies, fresh fruit and get this: Cheereos & puffed rice with milk and soy milk. People were having breakfast... that was cool!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7. It looked like a great place once you get to know people there.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It was definitely uplifting and positive – I felt better after attending the service.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The "words for all ages" section, when the kids got involved.
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