|1155: Garden of Peace Lutheran, St Petersburg, Florida, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Pipedreamer.
The church: Garden of Peace Lutheran, St Petersburg, Florida, USA.
Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The building: The building is 50 years old this year but looks newer. It is a modern, low, rambling structure, rather nondescript, with a school attached. The sanctuary is in the round and features a domed ceiling.
The church: They offer Bible study and other educational programs, including a preschool, and sponsor a food pantry for the needy.
The neighborhood: The church is located in a residential area, close to a shopping mall.
The cast: Pastor Jon L. Culp was celebrant and preacher.
The date & time: August 14, 2005, 10.45am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Unfortunately, summer crowds dictate that the main sanctuary is closed and a much cozier chapel is used. The chapel was about half full. It had been full for the earlier service.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, a friendly woman handed me a leaflet and explained about the sanctuary (where I was trying to head) and pointed me in the right direction.
Was your pew comfortable?
Comfortable as pews go. The seats were padded, which of course is great for sitting but not so great for the acoustics.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People were talking, but quietly so you could still hear the organ prelude.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, everyone. We shall begin with some short Bible readings."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Bible (if you already had one), Lutheran Book of Worship and With One Voice.
What musical instruments were played?
Electronic organ a big disappointment for this reporter. We went specifically to hear the three-manual Möller but of course didn't because of being in the chapel. However, the organ was played well with a nice selection of voluntaries.
Did anything distract you?
I thought I knew the pastor from another church a long time ago, so I was trying to remember him. However, it turned out that he was not the same person I had known.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I would say that the style was traditional with a relaxed feel. One really bizarre thing was the pastor saying the sursum corda and the congregation singing the responses. We couldn't figure out why it was done that way. All said or all sung. One or the other. At communion, the chalice bearer clasped two chalices tightly in both hands as if she'd be loathe to part with them.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Pastor Culp began with a couple of jokes which were illustrative of the points he was about to make in his sermon.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Issues of the day were very much to the fore. The Evangelical Lutheran Church had just concluded their national convention with a very tight vote on full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church. The motion failed. Pastor Culp was obviously saddened and disgusted by the outcome of the vote. The main thrust of his sermon was that it's not up to us (the church) who is welcomed and who is not. God is not exclusive. All God requires is adherence to the heart, not the law.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sermon was particularly thought-provoking.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Having to sing the sursum corda after hearing it said.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Before the postlude was over, several parishioners approached us and asked us to consider joining the choir.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Refreshments had been offered at the end of the previous service and before the start of this one; no further offerings were on hand. Everyone left rather quickly.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 Well, hard to judge because I'm not Lutheran and because the choir was on holiday. Very friendly place, though.
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 chalice bearer clutching those chalices with all the force she could muster!