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964: St Luke's, San Francisco, California, USA
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St Luke's, San Francisco, California, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Mr Cantata.
The church: St Luke's, San Francisco, California, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: An early 20th century French Gothic style building with expansive spaces and lovely proportions, St Luke's is located on the corner of Van Ness and Clay Streets. It houses a magnificent three manual Aeolian Skinner organ. Especially noticable is a lovely timber pulpit with matching canopy and graceful handrail leading up to the box.
The church: There are 19 Episcopal churches within the San Francisco area. This church identifies itself as a community that is interested in worship and thought.
The neighbourhood: The church is located near the Nob Hill area. Many of the surrounding houses feature gold leaf ornamentation.
The cast: The Rev. Bruce G. C. Bayne, Rector.
What was the name of the service?
Eucharist and Healing.

How full was the building?
A sprinkling of 50 worshippers gathered in a building that could seat 300.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I received the warmest welcome I have ever gotten in an American church. A lovely gentlemen dressed in suit and tie held the door open for me, greeted me with a warm "good morning," and handed me a program. I was informed that the heating had not come on earlier and so I should wear my coat – at least till the offertory.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes – high back padded pews. However, the spacing between pews differed from row to row. I felt a little hemmed in during the singing of the hymns.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The scampering of tiny feet, I am pleased to advise, was adequately muffled by the carpeting. The atmosphere was quiet and dignified.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
1982 Hymnal, service sheet, notice paper.

What musical instruments were played?
The Aeolian Skinner organ.

Did anything distract you?
I am sure that snow was starting to fall inside the building. I was glad to have worn my heavy coat to keep warm as I watched the clouds of steam come forth from the congregation during the singing of the hymns. There were some liturgical inconsistencies which distracted me from time to time – there was no singing of the Kyrie or Gloria, no recitation of the creed, and the Agnus Dei (from the Byrd Mass for Four Voices) was sung twice, once at the offertory and then during the distribution, and both times the choir went flat.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was what I would categorize as reverentially friendly.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Father's preaching style was enhanced by the nicely embellished pulpit and railing. His message appeared to fall on deaf ears, as very few people exchanged the peace afterwards. Perhaps it is a new innovation to go out of your way to welcome visitors.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Becoming a friendly and accepting church for all people.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Having a young man dressed in his Sunday best open the door for me is my idea of being in Episcopal Heaven.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
A good person with some style needs to review this church's liturgical practices and procedures. The gospel procession took place without acolytes or assistants – it just didn't look or feel right. Distribution of the eucharist to the altar party and choir was sloppily paced. And why did they sing the Agnus Dei twice?

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I waited patiently for my invitation to the coffee hour, and then finally gave up and took myself out for dim sum.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Evidently coffee hour is quite the go, only I didnt get an invitation! Perhaps only for His chosen ones?

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – St Luke's would have to clean up their liturgical act for me to make this my regular church.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it did.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The choir singing the Agnus Dei flat – both times.
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