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Cross, Pacifica, California, USA
Cross, Pacifica, California, USA.
Church in America.
A squarely built two story brick building on a somewhat hilly
street. The building is just that squarish. No bell tower.
On the side of the building facing the street is a white cross
two stories high. (OK, that was striking.) The rest of the building
is painted a sort of softened brick red. There are a few brick
planters, but so deeply built I couldn't see what was in them.
There are also some greens around the door to the lower level
(the parish hall). The second floor is actually the main entrance,
accessible from the upper parking lot. The interior is done
in light pine and teal greens. There are three sets of pews,
one each along the east, north and south walls. The simple altar
is flanked by an American flag and the Christian
flag. Along the west wall, large clear glass windows afford
a breathtaking view of the ocean.
There is an impressive roster of local musicians who have performed
during services in the past. The church also seems to have some
connections with local military bases, because some of their
featured past events included appearances by both the Army and
Navy Color Guard. They are associated with Thrivent,
a faith-based not-for-profit financial service for Lutherans,
and contribute to events such as Fog Fest (see below), high
school trips, missionary activity in Mexico, etc.
Pacifica sits on the California coast a few miles south of San
Francisco. Thus, it experiences the thick fogs that tend to
roll in from the ocean late afternoons and early mornings. Each
autumn the town celebrates Fog
Fest, a street fair featuring music, arts and crafts, food
and drinks, and places to sit and chat; all proceeds are returned
to the community groups that organize and participate in the
event. The town is a combination of serene suburbia and funky
blue-collar art. The church is located in a section considered
more desirable: quiet and hilly. Next door is a highly respected
private school. Up the road, a Spanish-Colonial adobe is open
as a local history museum, and the Sanchez Art Center –
a center of much community bustling – is next door to
The Revd Thomas A. Nibbe, pastor, officiated, with the help
of Teresa Naqishbendi, music director. (Mrs Naqishbendi also
maintains their website.) There were two unnamed young men who
served as crucifer and chalice bearer – or rather, small-cup
The date & time:
Third Sunday of Easter, April 18, 2010, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
I walked in a few minutes early and was pretty much the only
person seated. Within ten minutes, though, the building was
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was greeted with a shy smile and a handshake by a young man
in acolyte vestments who turned out to be the crucifer. I got
several polite nods and hellos from people as I settled in,
along with an exuberant hand-clasp from the pastor and a long
hard stare from a woman sitting in a pew facing me. I guess
I looked familiar.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was smooth pine, reasonably accommodating, with a well-stocked pew rack.
How would you describe the pre-service
People came in quietly and found their seats, looking around
for friends and nodding at each other.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning! I just went down to the beach and nobody was
there, so hopefully that means everybody will be here in the
next ten minutes!"
What books did the congregation use during the
The Lutheran Book of Worship (aka the Green Hymnal);
Hymns for the Family of God; Maranatha! Praise
Music Chorus Book; The Holy Bible, New International
Version. I also saw a couple of miscellaneous other Bible
translations here and there.
What musical instruments were played?
Piano only this morning.
Did anything distract you?
The views (sigh!). I think it was pretty clever of the pastor
to buzz the beaches before the service, as it was a glorious
fresh spring day and the west-facing windows afforded every
seat some breathtaking views. There was a wide strip of intoxicating
blue surf behind charming little houses that took up the entire
wall. It is simultaneously the best and the worst seating arrangement
I have seen. And there was something less pleasant, but more
about that later.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Moderately praise-y. The Green Hymnal, our main resource, has
a basically traditional liturgy that is somewhat modernized
as far as language. Some of the sung liturgical elements are
appealing enough to stand alone as hymns.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 It took me a while to figure out where the pastor was
going. The first two minutes or so were so chatty that I wasn't
aware he was really starting the sermon. Having said that, I
found his style relaxed and engaging, and it seemed to reflect
a certain response to the wave length of that particular congregation.
In other words, he knew his crowd, and he worked it well.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Pastor Nibbe took as his text Acts 9:1-20 (Paul undergoes conversion
on the road to Damascus but is blinded; Ananias restores his
sight). He spoke of a cat named Charles, who was discovered
wandering the streets of Chicago and was about to be euthanized.
But an ID implant enabled authorities to locate Charles' owner
in Albuquerque. The owner arranged for Charles to be returned
home. In like manner, Saul, not yet called Paul, was wandering
about with his hate-based view of God. He couldn't get back
to the right place without help, in this case from our Savior.
Which part of the service was like being in
At the passing of the peace, I shook hands with one woman who
clung to my hand a little longer than I expected. I was a little
alarmed, but she explained it was important that I know that
the church practised open communion, and so long as I was a
believing Christian, I was welcome to participate. I was looking
forward to communion and so was appreciative of the eager offer.
We sang "This is the Feast" for communion preparation, and it
is one of the most joyous, exuberant liturgy-based songs I have
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Now for the less pleasant distraction. At the start of the first
lesson, a woman came in late and settled right behind me with
her family. She immediately unwrapped a cough drop. Crackle!
Crackle! I admit I find that noise extra grating, but I gritted
my teeth for 10 seconds and then it was over – or so
I thought! Then the sucking began. Suck! Suck! Slurp! Slurp!
And it was loud! It sounded like a parakeet chirping. I looked
around me to see if anyone else was bothered, and noticed a
gentleman in front of me jump at an extra-loud slurp and glance
back. The pastor, seated all the way across the sanctuary, kept
looking over and frowning. Finally the communion-tray-bearer
turned around and leveled the most fantastic stink-eye in the
direction of the sucking. Had I been the target of such a look,
I'm sure my skin would have split! But it didn't faze the woman
in the least! (In fact, I did receive one of the boy's murderous
glances when I flashed him the peace sign during the exchange.
But I forgive him.) The relentless sucking went on for the entire
rest of the service – almost a full hour! It must have
been the biggest dang cough drop on the market.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I stood around in the narthex poking at announcements and staring
around pitifully. Everyone who passed gave me a warm goodbye,
but no one said anything about a coffee hour. Finally the pastor
came bounding over, held his arms out wide, and embraced me
in a big hug. I hugged him right back! Then he shook my hand,
said "Welcome!" and led me over to the visitor's book,
which I signed (messily, I'm afraid). Then came all the usual
questions: where was I from, what did I do for a living, etc.
When he had literally exhausted all such topics, he just stood
there staring at me with a puzzled smile. I kept thinking, "Show
me the coffee!" and tried my best to telecommunicate my
thoughts to him. It must have worked, as after a second or two
he pointed to a staircase and said there were cookies and coffee
available downstairs in the parish hall. "Thank you! I
could really use a cup of coffee!" I said with as much
gratitude as I could muster, and down I headed.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
The coffee was actually quite good. Also on offer were brownie
cupcakes, some crudités, tea, and juice. I sat down at
a long thin table, the kind that forces you to get in your opposite
seatmate's face and have some chat. A nice gentleman chatted
with me across the table. The only thing that was somewhat off-putting
was the small group that swept past everybody upon entering
the parish hall and spent the first ten minutes of coffee hour
huddled over the serving counter and talking in low voices,
punctuated by not-very-kind sounding snickers. Probably all
very innocent, but it gave the appearance of "dishing".
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 I'd probably wind up going here if I lived on the block. I was interested in some of the musical services they had promoted.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, in a laid-back sort of way.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Suck! Suck! Slurp! Slurp! And Johnny Stink-eye.
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