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768: Immanuel, Destin, Florida, USA
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Immanuel, Destin, Florida, USA
Mystery Worshipper: The Greek God.
The church: Immanuel, Destin, Florida, USA.
Denomination: Anglican Mission in America.
The church: The members of Immanuel Anglican Church are largely former Episcopalians, the congregation having walked away from its Episcopal links as well as its former church building in 2000. The congregation was almost entirely white, mostly middle-aged to retirement age, with a healthy number of teens and children. There was, however, a dearth of worshippers between the ages of 20-35.
The neighbourhood: The Destin Community Center is located on the edge of a nice residential area on the west side of Destin. It is visible from Highway 98, the main road through town, but there were no signs pointing anyone to the church. The church offices are in an office building on the other side of town.
The cast: The celebrant was Rev. Forrest Mobley, the preacher was Rev. Clark Cornelius, and the worship pastor was Rev. Dwight Atchley. A guest choir and the "Women of Praise" fleshed out the cast. The man at the keyboard was possibly John Hayslip, principal musician, but a definite identification slipped our grasp. There was a small orchestra, which seemed to be mostly teenagers. Three teens served as acolytes, and three adults dressed in linen albs served as chalice bearers.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion. It was also Trinity Sunday and Father's Day. The latter was emphasized, but the former was noted only in the collect and the recessional hymn.

How full was the building?
The worshippers numbered around 150, in a room which would probably hold 250. It was comfortable, without seeming sparse or crowded.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were welcomed by a number of people, almost all of whom were laity. Two greeters at the door to the worship area handed us bulletins and welcomed us, but a number of others welcomed us, both before worship, during the Peace, and after the service. Immediately before the Peace, the priest asked all the Immanuel members to stand, and those of us who remained in our chairs were given simple wooden crosses.

Was your pew comfortable?
We were seated in comfy, padded, bucket-style plastic chairs that probably belonged to the community center.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Music was being played as we walked in. It didn't seem to be practice but an opportunity for congregants to prepare for worship. Most seemed to be listening or singing along. There were two people at the altar praying silently for any who approached them.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning! We're glad you're here at Immanuel Anglican Church." This was followed by a couple other sentences and the processional, accompanied by "Faith of Our Fathers".

What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books. Everything except the scripture readings, which were printed on a bulletin insert, was projected with PowerPoint. The liturgy was 1979 Book of Common Prayer; the songs were a mixed bag of hymns and praise songs. Interestingly, no Psalm was used.

What musical instruments were played?
A keyboard, a bass guitar, a clarinet and a french horn. There were probably more, but I could not see them all from where I sat. There were no drums, which seemed odd, given the chosen worship style – the music would have flowed better with an accomplished drummer.

Did anything distract you?
The worship leader. I have a real distaste for people up front and center leading songs, dancing around with the microphone. At least she stayed behind the altar. My wife has strong reservations about women leading songs in general as they pitch the songs too high for the worshipping masses.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Worship was Anglican in a subdued charismatic manner. There were a couple of instances where music continued past a song and many praised God in very personal ways. I was rather startled by one instance of a public speaking in tongues two rows away; the priest offered a translation about 30 seconds later. Some raised their hands during songs or other parts of worship, others did not. There seemed to be a healthy mix of personal styles of worship.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
33 minutes

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The ministers, clergy and lay, teen and adult, gathered around the preacher and prayed for him immediately before the sermon. The preacher used no notes. He seemed comfortable in front of people and had an engaging manner, possibly due to his self-referenced Baptist background. He did not use the lectern but stood directly in front of the altar. The sermon was well delivered and interesting, but, because it included no outline for the listener, was hard to follow. He gave people the opportunity to leave the room if they weren't ready for his bold sermon – he asked everyone to bow their heads and he would pray and people could leave. Perhaps he'd seen someone else do it and thought it was cool; it came off rather trite. The sermon itself was good, but why couldn't he have just left off the first five minutes or so?

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Ministry is not just the responsibility of the paid ministers, but of all Christians. He began by stating that the sermon would be rated "R": his listeners would either rebel, repent or be restored. He didn't return to the three "R"'s and I was so confused by his opening that I may have missed his main point. Oddly for a service on Trinity sunday, he didn't mention the Trinity and, instead, focused on Father's day. One of the roles of ministers is to equip parents for ministry, rather than just provide programs in which they can dump their kids. If this sounds confused, it was, and I wasn't the only one whose attention began to wander.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
At the eucharist, the priest and chalice bearers did not simply give bread or wine with a terse statement. They spoke to us, in full sentences, reminding us of the blessings of communion as we received the body and blood. It was a beautiful contrast to the usual efficient distribution.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The music leader was a big turn-off. Also, the congregation broke into applause several times, including after the sermon.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After the recessional, we were instantly welcomed yet again by the parishioners sitting behind us. They invited us to worship again with them if ever we are in Destin.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Most people grabbed chairs and began to pick up the place, so it was unclear if refreshments were an option.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I prefer something a bit less charismatic, but the church's ethos of mission is irresistible. This church would be an exciting place to be these days.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The pastoral care as we received the eucharist.
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