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Lutheran, Washington, DC
Lutheran, Washington, DC.
Church in America.
Comment: There is a discussion thread on this report.
Swedish immigrants established this church in 1918 and called
it St Erik's. Augustana is your standard Gothic Revival brick
church. The main entrance is up a fairly inaccessible number
of steps if you're not young and fit. There is an accessible
entrance around the side, but as a visitor I wouldn't have noticed
it on first glance.
In the 1930s the congregation were still mainly Swedish-speaking,
and by the 1950s nearly all members were descendants of Swedish
immigrants. Today, most of those who come to Augustana are either
English or Spanish speaking, although there is still a small
active Swedish membership. Augustana is extremely racially diverse
for a Lutheran congregation. It's also multi-generational and
has a goodly number of gay and lesbian couples. All of this
is in keeping with their being a part of the Reconciling
in Christ movement. They celebrate holy eucharist each Sunday
morning and also hold an adult forum and Sunday school. There
are services in Swedish (once each month) and Spanish in the
afternoon and evening.
Augustana is located between the busy, trendy Dupont Circle
district and funky, eclectic Adams Morgan. The demographics
of these neighborhoods are reflected in the congregation.
The Revd John Kidd, pastor, was the preacher and celebrant.
J. Thomas Mitts, A.Mus.D., presided at the organ and directed
The date & time:
Sunday, September 13, 2009, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About three-quarters full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. There was an assigned greeter at the front door who handed
me a bulletin and welcomed me. I arrived a few minutes early,
and while I was leafing through the hymnal, two different members
came up to me to say, "You're new here. Welcome."
I'm sure they were sincere, but they seemed a bit overly friendly
to me – read on!
Was your pew comfortable?
Pews are, by their very nature, uncomfortable. I kept hitting
my knees on the back of the seat in front of me.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
People chatted and walked around casually. A bunch of people
were scurrying around in the chancel preparing for the service,
setting up communion, etc. When I took my seat, I began to sweat.
It was not very warm outside, but the A/C hadn't kicked in and
it was very warm inside. I began to feel ill and actually considered
leaving, but then the air conditioner began to work and I felt
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
"Welcome to Augustana Lutheran Church. This is the feast of the Holy Cross."
What books did the congregation use during the
A red hymnal and service book called Evangelical Lutheran
Worship, along with some printed material in the bulletin.
What musical instruments
A pipe organ, a two-manual instrument by Orgues Létourneau
of Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec, Canada.
Did anything distract
I thought the people who welcomed me at the beginning might
actually have been flirting with me! Who wants to be ogled
at church? Also, there were too many people milling around in
the chancel during the service: the choir, readers, acolytes,
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The best way to describe the style is bipolar high church Lutheran.
There was a lot of incense. This is unusual for a Lutheran
church. I felt we should have been warned that incense would
be used extravagantly. The thurifer seemed to take great pride
in swinging his smoking purse. And a sanctus bell was also jingled
– I actually rolled my eyes and laughed out loud when
someone rang that awful bell during the words of institution.
Aren't these Protestants? All of this was, in my view, cold
and off-putting. But the pastor's welcome and sermon were warm
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 The preacher strolled around in front of the congregation
and seemed only to refer occasionally to some notes in his hand.
The sermon was rambling and didn't really make a point or have
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The text was John 3:13-17, with emphasis on verse 16 ("God
so loved the world...") He referred to the congressman
from South Carolina who called President Obama a liar. He also
referred to Holy Cross Sunday but never really gave an explanation
of what it was all about. Most Protestants don't celebrate this
fairly Catholic festival.
Which part of the service was like being in
The congregation, not just the choir, could sing. The organist
was also very good at leading congregational singing, knowing
when and how to support the congregation and when to show off
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
All that smoke! And those terrible bells during communion. Very
distracting. Hell is smoke and bells.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A man who was sitting behind me said, "You must go to church
a lot since you didn't even look at the book but could sing
the canticle from memory." I'm sure he meant it as a compliment,
but had he been watching me and gauging my every move?
How would you describe the after-service
I wandered through a maze of passageways reminiscent of the
Roman catacombs but finally found where refreshments were being
served. I stood in line for the lemonade and cookies, but no
one talked to me. In addition to lemonade and cookies, there
was also coffee and some fruit. Oddly, a person in the corner
was selling beaded jewelry, but there was no explanation of
whether this was a fundraiser or just someone trying to make
a buck. How strange!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 The combination of high and low church was awkward.
Rather than achieve a happy middle, the mix just seemed confusing.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
No really. But then only a few services have ever made me feel
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
All that incense!
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