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|1707: La Casa
de Cristo, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
de Cristo, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA.
Church in America, Grand
Scattered about a campus of lush desert landscaping are several
cream-colored buildings with stucco walls and tiled roofs. The
sanctuary, fellowship hall, school, music room, church office
and nursery, as well as other departments, are all housed in
the various buildings. Also on the campus is a bronze statue
of a man looking like he was helping another man, but there
was no label and so I'm not sure who the statue depicts. Upon
entering the sanctuary, one finds oneself in an expansive cruciform
room with an assortment of tables at the rear and a baptismal
font about halfway down the aisle. At the front are a plain
altar and pulpit backed by an organ case, with the organ console
and choir loft to the right and two large "jumbotron" style
screens on either side.
There are four services each weekend, both traditional and contemporary,
on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Among their many weekday
activities are Bible study; men's, women's and children's ministries;
and a support ministry for bereaved parents. The church also
conducts an extensive music program including four choirs, a
handbell group, and performances by community orchestral and
choral societies. They also sponsor several community projects
as well as mission activities in Costa Rica and South Africa.
Scottsdale, a city of about 240,000 residents, is an eastern
suburb of Phoenix sitting in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.
The area was inhabited from the third century AD onward by Aztec/Mayan
descendants who farmed the arid, inhospitable desert with the
help of a system of irrigation canals, the remnants of which
are still a part of today's modern water facilities. But sometime
between the 15th and 17th centuries, when the Spanish began
to arrive, this early civilization seems to have disappeared.
Indeed, the Spanish encountered Native American tribes who referred
to the earlier peoples as Hohokam, meaning "the vanished
ones." Arizona became a United States territory in 1863,
and in 1877 Congress passed the Desert Land Act, which gave
640-acre desert plots to families willing to reclaim, irrigate
and cultivate the land. An influx of settlers ensued, among
whom was a preacher, farmer, businessman and developer named
Winfield Scott. Scott planted 600 acres of citrus trees and
campaigned to attract settlers to Orangetown, as he called it.
When the post office opened a branch there in 1897, the name
of the town became Scottsdale. In 1937, renowned architect Frank
Lloyd Wright built his winter camp on the eastern edge of the
town, and in 1951 Scottsdale was incorporated as a city. Since
then, Scottsdale has acquired a reputation for being home to
the rich and famous. The city is known for its upscale shops,
gourmet eating establishments and vibrant nightlife. The church
is located on Bell Road, in the northern portion of Scottsdale,
in a mixed residential and commercial area.
The service was led by the Revd Andrew Garman, pastor. Homer
Ashton Ferguson III, A.Mus.D., assisted at the organ.
The date & time:
Saturday, February 21, 2009, 5.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The building can seat over 1000 people and was about one-quarter
full. I estimate that there were about 250 people in all. The
congregation was a mix of older families (couples age 50 and
over) as well as younger families. It was a comfort to see families
in their late 20s and early 30s with their children in church.
Did anyone welcome you
Yes. I was welcomed by the pastor as well as greeters who handed
me an order of worship.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. The pew was padded and quite comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service
The pre-service atmosphere was remarkably quiet. Congregants
were either studying the readings for the day or listening to
the beautiful prelude played by Dr Ferguson. This was interrupted
when a rush of folks came in and got their seats during the
What were the exact opening words of the
"First a few announcements."
What books did the congregation use during the
The Holy Bible, the order of worship (a printed bulletin), and
text displayed on the jumbotrons.
What musical instruments
Pipe organ. The instrument, said to be the largest church organ
in Arizona, was completed in December 2008 by the Berghaus firm
of Bellwood, Illinois.
Did anything distract
Yes. The rush of folks coming in at 4.59pm as the service was
about to begin, and the jumbotrons changing slides during the
service, were quite distracting. One had to pay attention both
to the paper order of service as well as the screens. The pastor
rushed through the daily lessons and read in somewhat of a monotone,
which was also quite distracting.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The worship style was formal and liturgical accompanied by eloquent
German Lutheran hymnody. It was a typical Lutheran service of
the Word with a chanted Kyrie and Gloria.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
14 minutes long.
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
6 The pastor did not preach from the pulpit. He stepped
in front of the altar and had his notes in his Bible. He also
seemed to make a very personal connection with his parishioners
as he spoke. The pastor's tone during the sermon was polite,
but it was clear that this was a bit of "congregation scolding."
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The pastor rattled off that there were 5,000 members in the
church but only 1,600 of them showed up on any given Sunday.
He also scolded congregants who preferred to take their children
to sports and other activities rather than church-sponsored
youth outings. The sermon got better as time went along, as
he segued into a discussion of how our faith is a commitment,
and how we need to look at our priorities and examine where
church falls. He also talked about making church a priority
in our lives.
Which part of the service was like being in
The organ music, the beautiful sanctuary, and the chanting.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The overly long (four minute) extemporaneous closing prayer
monologue by the pastor.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I examined the various tables at the back of the church, trying
to look lost as I pondered which of the tables might be the
"welcome table" mentioned in the bulletin. But everyone just
appeared to be in a rush to get out. So I decided to do the
same, and I shook the pastor's hand as I left.
How would you describe the after-service
There was no after-service coffee.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 This church seems like it's more of an institution
than a faith family. Also, to come to church only to be berated
about how faith is not priority number one in one's life, left
a slightly bad taste. Finally, I was brought up in a strict
liturgical tradition, and the Lutheran liturgy isn't really
my cup of tea.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, to the extent that I was comforted to see a mix of age
groups in the church, knowing that we are still relevant as
Christians. I was also glad to see that Christian hymnody is
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Trying to look at the jumbotron and the order of service at
the same time.
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