|695: All Saints, Pasadena, California|
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Mystery Worshipper: Dr Pedantic.
The church: All Saints, Pasadena, California, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: The building is tastefully faux-Gothic. There are beautiful stained glass windows that let in a great deal of natural light. The nave's ceiling features curved wooden beams that are meant to evoke the ribs of a ship.
The church: The church is a very strong presence in the City of Pasadena. It has ministries for gays and lesbians, newcomers to the church, and people recovering from addiction. There are also minstries for people interested in such matters as healing race relations. This is one of the most outward-looking churchs I've seen; it could serve as a model for other churches in that regard.
The neighbourhood: The church is in a generally commercial area, sharing a plaza with a hotel and several restaurants. City Hall is right across the street on the west, and a large mall is just a few blocks to the south. The location actually makes the church more appealing, as a sanctuary from the urban jungle.
The cast: Ed Bacon, Kristin Neily Barberia, Rusty Harding, Susan Prado, and Scott Richardson.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The church was bursting at the seams, which tends to make for an exciting worship experience.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was accosted in the courtyard outside the church by a high school girl who handed me a church flyer denouncing the war against Iraq and urging political action. I also was greeted by an usher as I entered the sanctuary. And "the peace" was very friendly; people went out of their way to greet people even remotely in their vicinity.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pews are padded with thick red cushions, and were very comfortable. The only problem was that they are too close together. This means that getting in a position to kneel for prayer requires a bit of gymnastic prowess.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The atmosphere was mostly quiet and reverential, with many people praying silently. There was a snmattering of people carrying on too-loud conversations, but for the most part the environment was tranquil and spiritual.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Blessed be the one, holy and living God."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None just the written liturgy.
What musical instruments were played?
The service featured a few songs by a jazz combo, and as a result the instruments that were played included piano, bass, drum, cymbals, oboe, saxophone, trumpet and trombone. An organ was used with some of the more traditional songs.
Did anything distract you?
I was distracted by the politically correct language that periodically arose. Calling God "She"? Referring to Jesus as the "Cosmic Christ"?
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
For the most part, the worship was formal, although the formality was mitigaged somewhat by the presence of the jazz combo.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Ostensibly, the sermon was about listening for the "still, small voice" of God. In reality, it was a diatribe against the war with Iraq.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music. The songs were well thought out and well performed, and the singing was very strong. The music was very uplifting.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The rector's use of the "bully pulpit." I don't expect to hear sermons when I go to poitical rallies, and I don't expect to hear political arguments from the pulpit when I go to church. Even though I have always opposed the war, I don't think a worship service was the place to press that agenda.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing! After the service ended, the young man sitting next to me at church complimented me on my singing voice. I then wandered outside, where many people were gathered, and not one approached me. To be fair, I think I would have found these people perfectly friendly if I had initiated a conversation.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Typical weak, bad church coffee that gave me the uneasy feeling that the taste from the thin styrofoam cup was seeping into the coffee.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely. Quibbles aside, this was a very nice church that made me think, and definitely made me glad to be a Christian.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The beauty of the day I attended.