Ship of Fools
  Bulletin Boards
  Mystery Worshipper
  Caption Competition
  Gadgets for God
  The Fruitcake Zone
  Signs & Blunders
  Born Twice
  About Ship of Fools
  Support us!
  Contact us!
328: St Mark's, Des Moines, Iowa, USA
Other reports | Comment on this report
St Mark's, Des Moines, Iowa
Mystery Worshipper: Abed-Nego.
The church: St Mark's, Des Moines, Iowa, USA.
Denomination: Episcopalian.
The building: Built in the 1960s, it is an unexceptional but pleasant building with a reverential atmosphere.
The church: There were no young people or children in the congregation.
The neighbourhood: the church is set in a fairly poor neighborhood, close by a freeway, on the "less desirable" side of Des Moines.
The cast: Rev. Mother Jean E. McCarthy, celebrant; Rev. Father Carl Gilland, chalice-bearer; Bonnie Bell, lector.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist.

How full was the building?
There were around 30 people present, who occupied about half of the seats. Since chairs are used, and the church could accommodate more than 100, the service was in fact fairly sparsely attended.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I had a lovely, warm welcome from a gentleman who asked me if I would like a kneeler. I accepted.

Was your pew comfortable?
The chair-with-kneeler arrangement proved very comfortable indeed.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and prayerful.

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

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Book of Common Prayer 1979, Hymnal 1980.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ of the electronic variety.

Did anything distract you?
When the crucifer was about to make a "wrong" move, the celebrant shook her head at him with a certainty that would have made the angels tremble.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
In Anglo-catholic tradition, the liturgy was a rite 2 mass celebrated in a straightforward and unfussy manner.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
7 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Mother McCarthy had a eloquent and mellifluous delivery, speaking extemporaneously with notes.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The meaning of Pentecost. She reminded us that "Pentecost" means "50th day of grain harvest", and went on to point out that this meaning continues to have contemporary relevance, since we need the Holy Spirit as much as we need food.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The inclusion of the renewal of baptismal vows and the litany of healing in the body of the service. It seemed apt to include these elements in celebration of the coming of the Holy Ghost.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The "peace" was pretty discomforting. Absolutely everyone had to greet everyone else. It teetered on the edge of becoming a social gathering. I felt well and truly welcomed!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't have to hang around. Members of the congregation – and later the celebrant – were anxious to meet me. They seemed to strike just the right note of welcome without being too effusive.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The sociability continued into the coffee hour, where I was offered a perfectly respectable cup of "decaf", which I accepted, and a slice of apple pie, which I declined.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – The music and the ritual were somewhat basic to say the least. But the congregation's heart was in the right place.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. I was particularly moved by hearing the story of the celebrant's conversions from Mennonism to Roman Catholicism to Episcopalianism. Her husband apparently remains under the aegis of Rome, but is very supportive of his wife's calling.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The note quietly placed beside me as I was praying before the service. It read: "We wish to thank you for enriching our worship with your presence." A nice touch.
The Mystery Worshipper is sponsored by, the internet service provider from Christian Aid. By offering email services, special offers with companies such as and, surefish raises more than £300,000 a year for Christian Aid's work around the world.

Click here to find out how to become a Mystery Worshipper. And click here if you would like to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Top | Other Reports | Become a Mystery Worshipper!

© Ship of Fools 2001
Surefish logo