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St Sava, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Amanda B. Reckondwythe.
Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
Church in the USA and Canada, Western Diocese.
An oblong brick building resembling a blimp hangar with domes. The
interior is white, with a vaulted ceiling and dark wood iconostasis
and pews. Behind the iconostasis is a relatively large sanctuary over
which is depicted the Blessed Virgin enthroned, holding the Christ
Child on her lap, attended by two angels.
They are understandably proud of their choir. Other organizations
include a seniors group, folklore group, soccer club, Circle of Serbian
Sisters, and a Sunday school.
Phoenix is a city with no sense of the past. As soon as a building
begins to look like it belongs somewhere, it is torn down and something
else is put up in its place. The church sits on a cul-de-sac across
from a vacant lot where a sign promises a high-rise residential tower. What
may have been there before is anybody's guess.
The Very Revd Stavrophor Janko Trbovic, parish priest, assisted by
the Revd Marko Marusich, subdeacon, and two servers whose names were
not given. Father Trbovic wore a white alb with gold trim, a red cloth
of gold stole, and a cope-like garment of red cloth of gold. Subdeacon
Marusich was vested similarly except everything was gold. The servers
wore black cassocks.
The date & time:
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 22, 2007, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Initially I counted 35 people in a building that can hold 250. About
20 or so more came in as the service progressed. The congregation
represented a broad mix of age groups.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No. There was a guest book but I didn't sign it. I bought a candle
from a gentleman who offered no greeting. People were milling about
at the entrance but no one said anything to me.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. It was an upholstered wooden pew and was quite comfortable. There
were no kneelers.
How would you describe the pre-service
Some quiet visiting.
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
I don't know. The church bells were rung (deep, sonorous bells) and
the priest emerged from behind the iconostasis, thurible in hand,
and walked up and down the aisle censing everyone in silence. He
then muttered something inaudible at the altar and began the chant,
which was in Serbian.
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, in English and Serbian,
and a service leaflet likewise in both languages.
What musical instruments were
None. A small but very fine choir in the gallery chanted everything
Did anything distract you?
A strikingly handsome young gentleman entered a few minutes after
the service had begun, accompanying two likewise strikingly beautiful
young women dressed in black. This gave me something interesting
to rest my eyes on when my attention lagged. And it took me a little
while to figure out the rubrics, which were basically that we stood
when the royal doors were open and sat when they were closed,
with some exceptions. One woman, however, stood for the entire service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
I'd call it an opera between clergy and choir. The congregation were
silent throughout, except for the Lord's Prayer, which was recited
(not chanted) in English. All the rest of the service was chanted
in Serbian, except for a few parts in English. Much of the action
took place behind the closed royal doors. At what I assume
was the moment of consecration (the doors were closed), a fury of
bells broke forth the sonorous church bells, the jangling sanctuary
bell, the tinkling little jingle bells on the thurible. No one received
communion except for about a dozen small children.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good
was the preacher?
6 Father Trbovic delivered his sermon from in front of the
altar and did not use notes. Although we were led to believe he'd
be speaking about faith, hope and love, it seemed to me that he dwelled
on the first virtue at the expense of the other two.
In a nutshell, what was the
The most important virtues are faith, hope and love. There are many
ways we can strengthen our faith going to church is one way. Faith
keeps us on the road to God. It involves sacrifice and prayerful
conversation with God. Always behave as a good child of God, never
forgetting who your Father is.
Which part of the service was
like being in heaven?
The choir sang beautifully in four-part harmony, sounding like twice
their number. Of special interest was the creed, chanted in English. All
voices sang the opening words of each sentence, followed by a recto
tono recitative of the remainder of the sentence by a solo voice. This
culminated in all voices singing "I await the resurrection of the
dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen." It was very effective.
And which part was like being
in... er... the other place?
A gentleman stood up, held his digital camera at arm's length, composed
the picture in the LCD display, and fired his flash three times! Miss
Amanda hopes her own picture-taking technique was more subtle than
What happened when you hung
around after the service looking lost?
I queued up with the others to receive the antidoron and then went
outside, where people were standing around talking in Serbian. I
heard no English. I learned that a smile and "hello" apparently mean
"I'm not one of you; ignore me" in Serbian.
How would you describe the after-service
There was none.
How would you feel about making
this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 The music was lovely, and everything flowed along very smoothly
and with dignity. But unlike other Orthodox services I've attended,
I felt this one was lifeless and cold.
Did the service make you feel
glad to be a Christian?
No. I didn't feel that I had worshipped.
What one thing will you remember
about all this in seven days' time?
The most interesting choral setting of the creed.
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