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Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
The Episcopal Church, Diocese
A very attractive building with an imposing presence in the
very familiar Southwestern style that is prominent throughout
the Phoenix area. The tan color matches Phoenix's desert locale
quite well, although the cathedral is close to the central business
district of a major American city. The cathedral itself is well
kept, but is located in an area of town which has seen better
days. The grounds are unremarkable except for the courtyard,
which contains a labyrinth replicating the one at Chartres Cathedral.
I was so fascinated with the labyrinth that I had a hard time
actually finding the entrance to the cathedral itself. There
are some outstanding stained glass windows which are well described
on the cathedral's website. One's attention is immediately drawn
to the great window. When I first saw the window, I thought
the design was spectacular, but was unsure as to what it represented.
The website describes it as "the Trinity ... represented
by overlapping white wings ... and ... a symbolic representation
of the living earth, woven together from the primal elements."
There are three Sunday services: a spoken 8.00am service, the
main service at 10.00am, and a Spanish language service at noon.
I noticed the large number of outreach ministries this cathedral
supports, including spiritual formation, fellowship, and crafts
– all described on their website.
The cathedral is located on Roosevelt Avenue just west of Central
Avenue – not a section of Phoenix you'd send picture postcards
of. The housing stock is primarily early 20th century, rare
to find in these parts, and is occupied by working class folks.
There are, however, some new upper class condos behind the cathedral,
as well as renovated and gentrified older homes. This part of
Phoenix has also been disrupted by the construction of a light
The Very Revd W. Nicholas Knisely, dean, was the celebrant and
preacher. A layman whose name was not given read the Old Testament
lesson, and the Revd Deacon Maeve Johnson read the gospel.
The date & time:
August 31, 2008, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Choral Eucharist was the name of the service. However, the choir is away until October.
How full was the building?
About half full. I estimate the cathedral can seat about 300
or so comfortably. There were about 175 people in attendance
over the Labor Day weekend. The congregation were dressed in
a wide variety of styles, which I appreciated. I'd have a hard
time joining a church where every member wore a business suit
in 120 degree Fahrenheit weather at 10.00am on a Sunday. Members
were dressed in everything from suits to shorts. Everyone seemed
to mesh together quite well. Teens sat next to elderly people.
Did anyone welcome you
Yes. I was welcomed several times. First, when I wandered into
the Sunday school area by mistake. Second, when I actually found
the entrance to the cathedral itself.
Was your pew comfortable?
Average. The kneelers aren't ones I'd like to spend 30 minutes
on. The pew was unpadded but comfortable for an hour long service.
How would you describe the pre-service
Fairly quiet, except for some noise from children. There was a bit of whispering, but no audible conversations.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
1979 Book of Common Prayer, 1982 Hymnal. The
Prayer Book was available in Spanish as well. The eucharistic
prayer was taken from the book of supplemental liturgical materials
entitled Enriching Our Worship and was reproduced in
the bulletin. I had never heard of Enriching Our Worship
before, and the materials seemed not quite as politically correct
as those I'm more familiar with from the United Church of Christ.
What musical instruments
Piano and violin for the prelude. Organ only for the rest of
the service. The choir is said to be excellent, but they are
in recess until October.
Did anything distract you?
Yes, the children. In particular, the two children attempting
to climb over me while I was kneeling after communion.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Very low key service. No raising of hands or commentary from
the congregation. But people would choose to stand or kneel
at different times throughout the service. I was disappointed
that there was no incense. At coffee, a member told me they
do use incense for special occasions. The vast majority of the
service was spoken, but the eucharistic preface and sursum
corda were chanted. I was quite happy that the hymns were
all traditional hymns from the 1982 Hymnal, but the
organist took them at a very slow tempo – a trend I'm
eager to see end! The congregational singing was not very enthusiastic,
perhaps due to the low attendance for Labor Day weekend. The
exchange of peace is always something to be avoided in my opinion,
but this one was relatively tame – limited to shaking
hands with those in the pew in front and in back. The announcements
seemed a bit long, but since I came from a church that did 15
minutes of announcements, I'll accept Trinity's seven minutes.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
9 The first part of the sermon was excellent, definitely
one of the most interesting sermons I've heard all year. The
dean spent some time talking about the Tetragrammaton (God's
name written in four letters, the Hebrew letters represented
as YHWH in English), which I found fascinating. He clearly held
everyone's attention and the congregation seemed comfortable
with the length of the sermon. Sure, I would have loved a lengthy
discussion of Hebrew worship practices and a commentary of the
book of Exodus, but I don't think that would have appealed to
the rest of the congregation. The dean spoke very clearly, and
if he used notes, I certainly didn't see them.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
Most of the sermon covered the Old Testament lesson from Exodus
3:1-15 (God reveals his name to Moses) and focused mainly on
God being "I am who I am." This service took place right before
the arrival of Hurricane Gustav, and the dean mentioned he wanted
to include that in his sermon but did not rewrite the entire
sermon to focus only on that event. He said that we should not
try to interpret actions such as hurricanes as God being angry
at the United States or Louisiana.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The skill of the reader of the Old Testament lesson. Too often
lay readers mumble the lesson and I have to tune them out and
read it myself. Not so for this gentleman. He read the lesson
very well without being overly dramatic or drawing attention
to himself. Also, the deacon's reading of the gospel. She also
spoke very clearly and the lesson was easy to understand without
having to read along in the bulletin.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The very loud screaming from one of the infants in the congregation.
I could not hear the epistle lesson very well.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A member of the congregation came up to me after a couple of
minutes and engaged me in conversation. He invited me to brunch
and answered my questions about the absence of the choir.
How would you describe the after-service
The coffee was fine, but the cathedral really outdid itself
with the selection of food available free of charge. There were
plenty of baked goods available and they looked delicious. This
Mystery Worshipper decided not to partake, however, since brunch
awaited. The coffee was probably fairly traded, as an establishment
called the Fair Trade Cafe is located just off the cathedral's
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 I've just moved to the Phoenix area and am looking
for a church home. The diversity at this church makes it worthy
of strong consideration. The people were a mix of ages including
many children. The congregation were dressed from suits to shorts.
Same sex couples were listed in the anniversaries section of
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, 100 percent. My day was better because of this service.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Singing "Lift High the Cross" as the recessional hymn. At my
previous church, this hymn was only used during Lent.
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