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854: St Patrick's, Urbana, Illinois, USA
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St Patrick's, Urbana, Illinois, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Church Ferret.
The church: St Patrick's, Urbana, Illinois, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: The original church was built in 1901, and was extensively refurbished in 1978, and again in 2003. The building is a handsome red brick building with a tapered steeple.
The church: This is one of four parishes in the Champaign-Urbana area, and is the nearest to the University of Illinois campus, and so works closely with the Newman Center on campus.
The neighbourhood: St Patrick's is in an older residential neighborhood – most of the surrounding homes were built around the turn of the century. Parking is rather tight because of the nearby campus, and there are a number of houses that have been converted to student apartments in the area.
The cast: Fr. George Remm (celebrant and preacher). The lector for the day was a graduating high school senior, in keeping with the graduation theme.
What was the name of the service?
Gradutation Mass.

How full was the building?
Very full. There were a few people standing at the back.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The girl handing out bulletins wished me a good morning and smiled as I walked in.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were bare wood, but not uncomfortable. The kneelers were cushioned, but so close to the pew it was hard not to kneel with one's butt resting against the front of the pew.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was a low murmur of conversation, but nothing excessively loud or boisterous.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. This is the Sixth Sunday of Easter."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Gather hymnal (1988) and Gather service book (1998). Lyrics for three hymns (not the melody, though) plus other responses were printed in the bulletin.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano and guitar.

Did anything distract you?
There were two very noisy toddlers who babbled and squalled throughout the entire service. I'm not sure if there wasn't a cry room provided, or if the parents involved just didn't see the noise as a problem.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was an odd mix. One of the "hymns" was "Shine, Jesus, Shine", but the Lord's Prayer was sung in traditional language, including the debt/debtors bit. Of course, everyone had to hold hands during the Lord's Prayer, which just continued the mix-and-match feel.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The priest came down to just in front of the first pews for his homily, and spoke without notes. He had a very good speaking voice and didn't hem and haw like many do when speaking without references.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He started out addressing the graduating seniors, assuring them that though many would be leaving the area to go to college, the church is everywhere. He tied this to the readings for the day, which were all about the church. He then abruptly switched gears and announced that the diocese had launched a capital drive, and spent the remainder of the homily explaining the fundraising goal and where the funds would go.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Seeing so many young people involved in the service.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The plea for funds in the midst of the homily. It stuck out like a sore thumb and struck me as rather crass.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There was a photo session for the graduating seniors being set up near the parish hall, so everyone was moving that way rather quickly.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was announced during the serivce that coffee was being offered in the parish hall for the graduates and their families, which led my friend and I to think it was a special thing for just them.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 – I'm not a Roman Catholic, and have no plans to convert. My friend, though, is Catholic and indicated that it was a bit too contemporary for his own tastes.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. The congregation seemed happy to be there and were enthusiastic in their worship.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The members of the Knights of Columbus in full regalia processing in and out. My friend said he'd never seen this before at other Roman Catholic churches he'd attended.
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