|787: St Anthony on the Desert, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Motor City Mole.
The church: St Anthony on the Desert, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church, USA.
The building: A six year old sanctuary, modern, but with traditional lines. Tastefully painted and decorated to blend into the architecture of everything else in this part of the world.
The church: White suburbia personified. A healthy mix of ages, from children to senior citizens. Most people seem to be recently transplanted from other places, mostly northern climates.
The neighbourhood: Located in the desert of Scottsdale, Arizona, a posh suburb of Phoenix. The area is booming with new residents, which makes one wonder how many more people can move into an area with a finite desert water supply!
The cast: Rev. Jonathan B. Coffey, Jr., rector; Dr Craig Westendorf, pastoral musician and preacher, and various other assistants.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist, Rite II.
How full was the building?
About 65 per cent full, or about 175 people.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, several people on the sidewalk on the way into the church, the ushers, and several other lay people milling about in the narthex. During the service they asked all visitors (if they felt comfortable doing so) to stand up and introduce themselves. This is a parish that apparently is used to visitors and potential new members.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, padded pew with fold-down kneeler in front.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Chatty and friendly outside and in the narthex; quiet and reverent in the nave.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Could the children please come forward for the children's story stick?" This was a short intro from the rector to the children as he held a stick with various Bible stories marked on it. He described the gospel for the day, the raising of Jairus' daughter, and then everyone sang, "Jesus loves me, this I know," as the children where led away to children's chapel.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
1979 Book of Common Prayer (ECUSA), 1982 Hymnal, service bulletin.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ for hymns, prelude and postlude; piano for anthem and communion meditation.
Did anything distract you?
The reading of an introduction explaining each reading before the actual reading, including the Gospel.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Middle of the road broad church – not too hot, not too cold, not too Catholic, not too Protestant.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes, 10 seconds.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Very good for a lay preacher (who also happens to be the parish organist/choirmaster). I found out later the bishop has licensed a few lay members to preach in addition to the clergy.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He began with a story about purchasing $2 worth of gas for a stranded motorist, who said, "You must be a Christian". This caused some soul-searching about how such a small act of charity could make one worthy of bearing the title of the name of the Lord of heaven and earth. He then went on to reference the readings from Deuteronomy and 2 Corinthians and the giving of charity. Even though the $2 was a small gift, all our giving is a reflection of the reality that Jesus Christ gave all out of love for us, and each little act of charity on our part is a participation in the divine life of grace.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The friendly, welcoming atmosphere of the congregation
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The use of eucharistic canon C, also derisively called The Star Wars canon, for its references to the "vast stellar galaxies" and the like. I didn't think anybody still used this canon.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No chance. Several people greeted me as I was leaving the pew and others introduced themselves on the way out. Since I had stood up during the intro of visitors (among about a half dozen), I was now known by others as someone to be greeted.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There wasn't any. When I asked, I was told it was between services, but that if I wanted, I could go over to the parish hall building and see if there was anything left over.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 If I couldn't find something more traditional, I would consider making this my parish home.
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 story stick and singing "Jesus loves me, this I know," at the beginning of the service.