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958: The Church of the Advent of Christ the King, San Francisco, California, USA
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The Church of the Advent of Christ the King, San Francisco, California, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Mr Cantata.
The church: The Church of the Advent of Christ the King, San Francisco, California, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: Small, compact 1910 hall, built after the great fire and intended as the parish hall for a larger church building. Unfortunately the church building was never built and the parish hall was unfortunately consecrated as the parish church.
The church: Supernova Anglo-catholic parish in San Francisco (see more below).
The neighbourhood: On the edge of the civic area of San Francisco.
The cast: Rev. Roderick Thompson.
What was the name of the service?
Solemn Evensong and Benediction, the Second Sunday after the Epiphany.

How full was the building?
45 people in a church that could seat 120 people comfortably.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
When I walked in, a service sheet was thrust into my hand, and there was no welcome to speak of, as no words were offered. It is so nice to be complimented on choosing to visit a parish – like United Airlines says, "We know that you have a choice in who to fly with." I would encourage this congregation to provide some training on welcoming people.

Was your pew comfortable?
A lovely box pew style, with ample leg and kneeling room. Lovely padded kneelers and high backs.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
No one dares to talk in an Anglo-catholic church prior to a service – and this was the case here. Everyone was fixated on their devotions or the pre-show server movements in the somewhat cramped sanctuary.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"The first lesson is from Genesis 7, commencing at verse one."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A service sheet, and The Hymnal 1982 was used for two hymns.

What musical instruments were played?
A small 1965 German-style "shrill" box was played in the gallery.

Did anything distract you?
The person sitting directly in front of me neither stood nor contributed to any part of the service. I was tempted to give him a nudge when to stand, but my charity provided me with better sense and I left him to his own non-participation.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship has officially reached a "supernova" celestial state. Not only were all the furnishings in an over the top baroque splendour, the ceremonial put other Anglo-catholic centres to shame.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Praise the Lord – no sermon!

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – Excellent. I prefer a praying preacher to one who speaks.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The atmosphere, lighting, ceremonial, incense and music all contributed to the sense that we had left that "house made with hands" and entered the portals of the "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The organ. What a disappointment for such a fine Anglo-catholic parish to be lumbered with a 1960s German shrill box is beyond comprehension. I would advise that this parish throw the abomination out onto the road for the street cars to trample! Some improvisation technique would not go astray for the organist. There seemed to be quite a few occasions when some fill-in music might have been appropriate, but the mood dropped to the purgatorial status when no sound emanated from the gallery.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No one invited me to the coffee hour or festive afternoon tea. I left the church, and there was no one at the door, not even the rector. I waited out the front for around 10 minutes, and still there was no offer of supper, but I did get some unusual raised eyebrow movements from some of the men in the congregation. This must be a local San Francisco custom that I will have to discover.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – A welcoming smile or a greeting from the rector at the end of the service would have given this parish a 10 rating.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely – and what a fitting ending for the day.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The tabernacle reminded me of the high altar from the Sound of Music church in Salzburg. Wow – spectacular!
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