|516: Grace Episcopal, Lexington, North Carolina, USA.|
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Mystery Worshipper: Friar Tuck.
The church: Grace Episcopal, Lexington, North Carolina, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: A rather stark yet imposing fascade greets the worshipper. The "new" church sits right beside the "old" church, which is now used as a chapel for the early Sunday service. About a quarter of the building is the narthex, so the nave itself isn't very large, but it is a very appealing space with much potential. One's eyes are especially drawn to the rose window and large suspended cross over the altar. The altar itself is entirely surrounded by the rail, making communion a truly community moment.
The church: The smaller crowd made it feel a bit cliquish. But being an outsider, I suppose it might be easy to feel that way. They seemed to be a warm community of faith.
The neighbourhood: Grace is on main street, a short walk from the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches. A typical, small southern city with a definite working class feel, though some doubtlessly live here and commute to larger cities for work.
The cast: Rev. Doug Kearney, Interim Rector. He is a Lutheran pastor, serving here temporarily.
What was the name of the service?
Holy eucharist, Rite II, 11.00am.
How full was the building?
Perhaps half-full, at best.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No, I entered the narthex and hunted for a bulletin. I was about 15 minutes early so the greeters hadn't yet taken their posts. I did get a "Hey, what's up?" from a passing layreader who had just finished a conversation with an acolyte in the nave. After the church was beginning to fill, a young lady in my pew slid her way over to me and introduced herself. I explained to her that I was an "out-of-towner," which prompted her telling me to have a safe trip at the end of the service.
Was your pew comfortable?
Standard wooden pew. The kneelers were padded and comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet, due to the total absence of breathing bodies. Then hushed greetings and coversation ensued.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Alleuia, Christ is risen!"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Book of Common Prayer and the 1982 hymnal. There was another hymn book in the pews, "Lift Every Voice and Sing II", but it wasn't used.
What musical instruments were played?
Piano. There was a nice exposed pipe organ on both sides of the altar area. But, alas, the organist was pooped after Holy Week.
Did anything distract you?
Nothing really. I kept looking at the stained glass, especially the rose window, but it wasn't exactly distracting.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
How low can you go? That about sums it up. I'm not exactly a Church of the Advent kind of churchgoer, but I was completely disappointed by the lack of vibrancy on this morning. It must be said that it was the moring after daylight savings time began and the week after Holy Week: no organ, no choir, no congregation. A slight exaggeration on the congregational part, but the point is that it had the feel of an Anglican "early bird" service rather than the main Sunday service.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Approximately 10 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 A good, solid (Lutheran!) presentation using minimal notes.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Pastor Doug's sermon centered on how we should respond to an age of fear in the spirit of the risen Christ. He alluded to the recent terrroist attacks and other past occurences in the US and how our encounter with Jesus, the risen one, can alter the way in which we live our own lives as well as the way we live for others.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The feeling of community as the congregation gathered all around the altar-table to receive our Lord's body and blood. We could look into each others eyes and really experience what grace is all about.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The abysmal lack of vibrancy on this low, low Sunday.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A very polite and smiling older lady introduced herself and told me how glad she was to have me there. On my way out, I was greeted by the same layreader from before the service who gave me a hearty handshake. He also exclaimed that it seemed that I was the only one who remembered daylight savings time had begun the night before.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
"There will not be a social hour this morning" was hidden in the announcements in the bulletin. Aw shucks! But it didn't matter, I needed to get home to use the "little friars" room anyways!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 If it were the only Anglican option, sure. It seemed like a friendly community. But I would probably venture into a nearby city to explore other parishes before making a decision.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yeah I was glad to experience the continuity of the Anglican tradition even in this unfamilar church. I felt my heart warmed by the fact that, despite varying worship styles among parishes, the words are the same and they convey the power of the message of God's redeeming love.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The picture of everyone gathered around the Lord's table.