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303: St Mary, Rockport, Massachusetts, USA
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St Mary, Rockport, Massachusetts
Mystery Worshipper: Clothmoth.
The church: St Mary, Rockport, Massachusetts, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church, USA.
The building: Pretty, white clapboard building, dating from the 1870s, with halls and offices at ground level and the church upstairs. The church has stained glass, a sanctuary light, a traditional layout and, when empty, a peaceful atmosphere.
The neighbourhood: Rockport is an attractive seaside village with a fishing harbour, popular with tourists, and with a high number of retired residents.
The cast: Preacher: Rev. Lynette Fuller. Celebrant and Rector: Rev. Karin E. Wade.
What was the name of the service?
Easter Sunday, Holy Eucharist.

How full was the building?
90 per cent filled. There were odd empty seats scattered about.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I had a very warm welcome at the door, and another upstairs at the church entrance.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, surprisingly, as it was bare and wooden. The kneeler was a fold-down benchette arrangement, not particularly well spaced. Perhaps that was why kneeling was not in vogue here.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was loud and lively chatter.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Alleluia! Jesus is risen."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Book of Common Prayer; The Hymnal 1982; Wonder, Love and Praise.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ for most of the service, with tambourine, maracas, castanets and box-and-stick added for the anthem. This anthem was Resuscito‚ by Kiko Arguello, and lent itself well to this treatment. Not quite sure whether the box-and-stick was intentionally offbeat or not.

Did anything distract you?
1. A most impressive, bushy yet disciplined moustache in the choir. 2. An early hint of tambourine (perhaps someone tripped over the thing?) made me uneasy and apprehensive of something cringingly embarrassing to come. This eventuality did not materialise. 3. Disappointment that there were only two women sporting hats on this day of all days.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Firmly catholic, alb and chasuble, asperging of the people. Sanctuarial practices were reverent but unfussy. There were two very serious and well-trained little girls in the otherwise adult serving party.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
9 minutes, 15 seconds.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Although the women who discovered the empty tomb did not record their feelings, we should not be afraid to express our joy, excitement and wonder in the resurrection. The preacher illuminated her point with a modern parable from her own experience which certainly drove her message home effectively.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Hearing the hymns, Hail thee festival day‚ and Jesus Christ is risen today‚ sung with the same gusto I knew would be being employed in my own church.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The restlessness of the congregation (this observation does not apply to babies and small children). People wandered around, stopped off to have a gossip with friends on the way back from communion, etc. The poor rector could have done with a referee's whistle to bring people to attention for the post-communion prayer. This church is so well set up for the maintenance of prayerful quiet, with its downstairs gathering areas, that is a great shame not to use it.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There was so little space at the back of the church that I got swept downstairs to coffee hour‚ where I stood for 6 minutes before being spoken to. Once the ice was broken, they couldn't have been nicer. However, as the welcome had been so wonderful, I did feel a bit greedy in expecting more attention.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Good, hot coffee in china cups and saucers, with luminous pop for those who preferred it. There was a formidable array of eatables, from home-made sticky buns to raw vegetables for those regretting the end of Lent.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – this is an average as the score is 7 as it is, or 9 if they keep the chattering for coffee time.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it was Easter Day. The people were happy and open, and all ages seemed very much included and comfortable in their church.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
That, although unlikely liturgical bedfellows, asperging and tambourine shaking can co-exist.
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