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984: First United Methodist, Cary, North Carolina, USA
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First United Methodist, Cary, North Carolina, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Forgotten.
The church: First United Methodist, Cary, North Carolina, USA.
Denomination: Methodist.
The building: This is a traditional building with an historical feel. It has beautiful, large stained glass windows, and has center and side aisles. It's a rather large sanctuary, painted white, which makes it feel spacious and airy.
The church: The bulletin inserts suggested that it is a church with an active outreach program. The bulletin cover was a collage of photographs of church members in a variety of activities, including choirs, worship centers and classes.
The neighborhood: This appears to be a downtown church in a small town, attended by members from an extended rural area. There are a number of well kept older homes in the immediate neighborhood. Two main streets intersect just a few yards away from the entrance. Parking access is minimal and fairly distant. There were no indicators for where one might park if on-street sites were filled.
The cast: Rev. Dr Rodney Hamm, Rev. Dr William Green, Mr Steve Glass (layman), United Methodist Men's President.
What was the name of the service?
The Worship of God, Veteran's Sunday, 8:30am.

How full was the building?
Probably three-quarters full at this early service.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No one greeted me until the service was over. The pastor greeted me as I exited, but it was cursory and did not acknowledge the fact that I was a stranger to the congregation. There was no passing of the peace, but an attendance sheet was passed to the ends of the pews. No one in my pew or around me greeted me at any time. Disappointing!

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. It was uncushioned, but slanted in such a way that it was fairly comfortable. The space between pews was adequate for those who needed to move past to the center.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I arrived during the organ prelude, because of the problem finding parking space. At that time there was quite a bit of rather intrusive chatting throughout the sanctuary; I think that time should be used to quietly prepare to be in a state of worship. I also feel it important to listen respectfully to music prepared by someone to be part of the worship service.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, and welcome."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The United Methodist Hymnal. I found it interesting that mention was made that there had been an intention to print a special hymn on a separate sheet ("Eternal Father, Strong to Save") to underscore the theme of Veteran's Sunday. It isn't a hymn that's in the Methodist Hymnal, but as a practising Methodist, I know that this hymn can be found in the supplement that was in each pew holder. I marked it and gave it to the pastor as I left. I should think that someone on the staff would be familiar enough with the supplement to have pointed that out before I did.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano.

Did anything distract you?
It was too warm in the sanctuary with no moving air that I could sense. I think the 11.00am service must have been much worse.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very traditional Methodist worship, with some extras. There was a mime presentation focused on tithing, and it was greeted with applause.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
There was an eight minute Gospel explanation that seemed at first to be the beginning of the sermon, but the body of the sermon when he finally embarked on it was 21 minutes long.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – This was one of the best "tithing " sermons I've ever heard. It was based, essentially, on John Wesley's "10 per cent giving, 10 per cent saving and 80 per cent using". The pastor spoke in the vernacular, used humor and painted some great word pictures.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon related the Gospel message (Luke 16:1-8) to our lifestyles. The preacher pointed out that most people are shrewd about laying up things on earth, but that as Christians, we should act just as shrewdly in using our incomes to help others. Don't just praise other who are "doing", he told us – get out and do it yourself. Nobody just drifts into compassion and generosity, you must take action if you have professed a faith in Christ. "Just do it."

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The enthusiastic singing of the congregation. There were no timid voices here. Also, the unique mime presentation of tithing and what we owe God.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The morning prayer presented by the layman was way too long.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No one said a word to me. The members of the congregation were all very involved in visiting with one another.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no invitation to a social time with coffee, etc. As far as I could tell, there wasn't any social hour. If there was a place, I couldn't see anyone retiring there. They all headed out the door where the pastors stood and went directly to their cars.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
The sermon did.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The mime presentation.
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