|Comment on this report, or find other reports.
|Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you'd like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.
|Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.
Community Church, Pescadero, California, USA
Community, Pescadero, California, USA.
United Church of
A small, traditional, white wooden church with a classic bell
tower. A registered California state landmark. The building,
renovated in 2005, has been standing since 1867, and is the
oldest church building on its original site in the adjacent
two counties (San Mateo and Santa Clara).
They really embrace their role as a community hub. In addition
to providing religious services and activities, they also host
a weekly open mic poetry reading, a Spanish class, a cooking
class, and a monthly pancake and waffle breakfast. They are
active members of a support network called Puente de la Costa
Sur (South Coast Point), which provides services to the numerous
agricultural workers in the area.
Pescadero is a hilly, coastal, farm-covered town of about 2000
people somewhat south of San Francisco. It is located on the
original Rancho Pescadero land grant given in 1833; before that,
it was pasture for Mission Santa Cruz. There are descendants
of pre-statehood families still living in this area and working
on their farms.
The Revd Detlef Matthies, coordinating minister and minister
of the day. Their ministers come from a variety of traditions.
There is a rotations of these ministers from week to week, in
addition to special guest preachers from other churches. The
minister of music was Mark Binion, aided by Jackie Galloway,
assistant music minister.
The date & time:
April 11, 2010, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About one-quarter full – the church looked like it could seat
about 70, but there were only about 15 or 20 people present.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I came in during a last-minute choir rehearsal (a nice arrangement
of "Holy, Holy, Holy"). A soprano looked out and chirped, "Hi!
Can you sing?" (I answered in the negative.) I seated myself.
As more people came in, a couple other people noticed the newcomer,
and a couple of them noticed them noticing, so I got several
polite nods and two or three walk-up greetings. A woman asked
me if I'd gotten a service sheet, and I assured her there was
one lying in the pew when I got there.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was quite nice – lovely gleaming walnut with a thick
velvet cushion-runner. Also, the sanctuary had two faux woodburning
stoves (read: gas heaters) that were extremely welcome, given
how miserably wet the day was.
How would you describe the pre-service
Quietly rustling, with cheerful greetings being exchanged. It
was torrential outside, and people seemed happy to be inside
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning, and welcome to this morning's service."
What books did the congregation use during the
The New Century Hymnal and The Holy Bible, New
What musical instruments were played?
Mainly a baby grand piano was used, but on one of the songs
the choir used a lone tambourine.
Did anything distract you?
During the opening hymn, a door banged open. A woman came rushing
down the aisle with a box of coloring markers in her hand and
a determined look on her face. Two little girls – between
8 and 10 years old, I'd guess – came bounding along behind
her, giggling. Once they got settled in the pew, they were angelic.
An avalanche of sheet music tumbled down from assistant music
leader Jackie Galloway's podium, and like a true professional
she completely ignored it and went right on singing. The Pacific
Ocean was miraculously diverted to cascade down upon the church
from the heavens. Not really, but it felt like it.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Moderately happy clappy. The liturgy was simple and pared down
to the basics: doxology, prayer, scripture, hymns, benediction.
The songs were of the praise variety, but with a funky originality.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Pastor Matthies is a soft-spoken man with a German
accent; his tone was friendly and reflective. He also was a
pinch hitter – he'd accidentally told the scheduled minister
of the day that she wasn't scheduled that day, and had to fill
in for her. I was impressed with how well he did on such short
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
He began talking about his reading a biography of Albert Schweitzer
on a recent plane trip. He neatly managed to tie the ideas he'd
gleaned from that to the scripture reading of the day (Acts
9:1-9, Paul's encounter with Christ on Damascus road). Paul
never mentioned Damascus in the writings we have, but Luke felt
it needed to be mentioned. As with Schweitzer's biographer,
sometimes people don't just want to know what you've learned,
but the journey you took to learn it. It is interesting to note
how radically anti-Christian Paul was before his change of heart.
As with Schweitzer, it is instructive to examine the beliefs
a person has let go of to understand how their beliefs have
Which part of the service was like being in
The prayers of the people began with the congregation mentioning
people by name and asking prayer for their specific needs. This
was followed by a corporate prayer. The minister closed, and
darned if he didn't repeat, without notes, the 10 or so prayer
requests offered, remembering everybody's name and situation.
And then he said, "And now a musical offering: 'You've Got a
Friend'." No way, I thought. Then minister of music Mark
Binion began playing the Carole King song. A parishioner stood
up and began singing the song, and after a short time the rest
of the congregation began to join in. Your humble Mystery Worshipper
did not join in; she was weeping. As if this were not enough,
we closed the service with Mr Binion on piano again, playing
a ragtime/New Orleans jazz version of "Just a closer walk with
thee." It was fantastic: well executed and wholehearted.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
It was like the Devil got ahold of Bay Area precipitation and
just did his level best to screw with people's church experience.
There was wind. There was rain. There was a mighty blast driving
gallons of rain against some very meek looking window panes.
You'll note the building photo was taken from inside my drenched
car. As much as I love the Ship, there was no way I was going
to climb out into the torrent to perfect my shot. So yes, if
you plan to travel to Pescadero, be prepared for some interesting
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't really get a chance to look lost. As soon as people
started filing out, I was eagerly invited to the pot luck by
more than one person. A few people made chatty Peninsula geography
comments to me. At length I settled next to two men speaking
Spanish, one clearly speaking his native tongue and the other
speaking it as a second language but very, very fluently! One
man was drying his jacket in front of one of the stoves, and
the other was asking him to clarify the English translation
of certain words. The native English speaker turned and introduced
himself and his friend. I identified myself as a student of
Spanish and asked them (as best I could) if they were members
of the church. The native Spanish speaker replied that he wasn't
but that he did odd jobs for them sometimes, and that he had
been friends with the other man for many years. He said that
the church was full of very good people. His genuine affection
for the people was palpable.
How would you describe the after-service
The coffee was pretty darned good. There were also tea and cookies
on offer. At the pot luck I noticed soup and potato salad. Unfortunately
I couldn't stay for that, as I had to dash off in the rain to
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 If I lived in Pescadero, I would definitely look no further. I felt right at home.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Glad to be a Christian and glad to be a human being. I think
this was the kind of experience that is a hallmark of California
worship: people weaving their personality and talents into something
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
A storm of people drowning out the storm of nature with "You
just call... out my name..."
|We rely on voluntary donations to stay online. If you're a regular visitor to Ship of Fools, please consider supporting us.
|The Mystery Pilgrim
| One of our most seasoned reporters makes the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Read here.
| Read reports from 70 London churches, visited by a small army of Mystery Worshippers on one single Sunday. Read here.