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1097: Newman Hall, Holy Spirit Parish, Berkeley, California, USA
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Newman Hall, Holy Spirit Parish, Berkeley, California, USA
Mystery Worshipper: ACOL-ite
The church: Newman Hall, Holy Spirit Parish, Berkeley, California, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: On the outside, this is a rather ugly concrete building. The foyer is no better looking. The interior of the church itself, though, is a different story! The stone theme continues, with a roughly hewn altar and lectern. The church was lit almost entirely by candlelight and had an immediately spiritual feel. Beautiful.
The church: This is the Roman Catholic ministry to the university. Some local families come too, though.
The neighborhood: Near the "on-campus" residence halls, and not that far from the actual campus, Newman Hall is in the lively trendy south area of Berkeley.
The cast: No names were provided. Notably, the preacher was a woman.
What was the name of the service?
10pm Mass.

How full was the building?
Pretty full. We had seven in a pew that could only really fit 12, and that was pretty typical. Probably around 400 people there.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Only during the peace, which was a purely ritualized greeting. They only had one greeter on duty after the service and two doors, and it looks like I chose the wrong one.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was fine.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I got there 15 minutes early, and it was very reverential then. However, there seemed to be a clear correlation between being a less-than-early-comer and being a bit too chatty for my liking, so by the time the service started, the room was pretty noisy.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening." (To which, apparently, the correct response is "Good evening, father.")

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. There were three Bible readings, but I couldn't spot the translation. Everyone knew the liturgy and the song words were back-projected onto a screen (white words on a black background, so as not to over-illuminate the room).

What musical instruments were played?
Guitar. I've never really thought of the guitar as a good instrument for accompanying congregational singing on its own, given that it doesn't give the tune, but it seemed to work OK.

Did anything distract you?
The responses were ever so slightly different to what I'm used to and I was intrigued by the bizarre places in which I got tripped up. Also, the radio mikes weren't the best in the world – they were a bit rustly.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Happy clappy musically; but generally quite meditative. I appreciated the lack of disruptions to the worship, which was very intensly focussed.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – A very well delivered sermon on the Gospel reading.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Sheep are pretty stupid animals, but even they manage to follow a leader. It's reassuring to know that this is all God requires of us.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Oh, so much! I loved having the peace immediately follow the consecration; the wonderful sermon; the murmuring of names from around the room during the intercessions. But, more generally, the intense focus on the Holy and the lack of interruptions.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
In the communion hymn we sang about, "the bread which shows our unity" or some such. Right after singing this, I had to walk up and receive a blessing while my neighbors received communion. It isn't this church's fault – it takes two to be disunited – but disunity is hellish.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Well, everyone just left, so there didn't seem any point. In fairness, it was 11:15pm!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – If I was Roman Catholic, then I'd definitely make this my regular church, but I'll definitely be coming again.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. It gave me even more reason to pray for Christian unity – I want to take a full part in this worship!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The antiphon in the psalm: "Shepherd me, O Lord." A prayer very much worth praying.
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