|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.
|2064: St Andrew's,
Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, USA
Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, USA.
The Episcopal Church, Diocese
of Central Pennsylvania.
My first impression of the building was that it was meticulously
maintained and spotlessly clean. The building is typical 1950s
USA church construction, set on a hilly, triangle-shaped lot
with a brick facade and a steel-framed nave. The multi-level
arrangement of restrooms, classrooms, narthex, nave, and church
hall was confusing at first, but showed well-thought use of
space. This building has the most interesting post-World War
II low-budget stained glass windows I've ever seen. The window
are non-insulated steel frames glazed with full antique glass.
One pane in each window has a stock black etching of simple
biblical icons (none of which, however, showed St Andrew) Two
of the icons reflected Revelations, which is rare iconography.
By the time I left coffee hour, I knew that this was a welcoming
community. Among their many outreaches is a program for students
at nearby Bucknell University and a prayer shawl ministry that
presents shawls to families coping with illness, death, or other
life-changing events. There are two services each Sunday, spoken
and sung, and a mid-week service.
Lewisburg is a quaint little town in central Pennsylvania enshrouded
in two mysteries. The first is the mystery of its street names,
which appear to be based on saints (St Catherine, St George,
St Anthony, etc.) but which were more likely named in honor
of the "saintly" lives led by family members of the
town's founder, one Ludwig Derr, a devout Lutheran. The second
is the mystery of whatever happened to old Ludwig Derr, who
seems to have disappeared without a trace during a trip to Philadelphia.
The church fits well into its residential neighborhood, having
been built at the same time as the surrounding houses and serving
as a buffer between the state highway and the houses just behind.
Lewisburg is home to Bucknell University, one of the first institutions
of higher learning to admit women to its programs, as well as
to Lewisburg Penitentiary, a high security federal prison that
once numbered Jimmy Hoffa, John Gotti, Alger Hiss and others
of like ilk among its residents.
The Revd Peter Harer, rector, was the celebrant.
The date & time:
September 5, 2010, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist, Rite II.
How full was the building?
One-third full on a holiday weekend. Approximately four dozen
souls in a college town.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was welcomed, but given personal space, everywhere I moved
in the building. When I arrived 15 minutes before the service
after a long drive, restroom directions were easy to obtain.
One parishioner and the rector bade cheery good mornings. Upon
entering the nave, I was greeted with another "Good morning"
and handed a bulletin. Upon sitting in the pew, I was given
personal space for reflection.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew and kneeler were comfortable and spaced sufficiently far apart that tall people would not knock their knees even on Christmas.
How would you describe the pre-service
Before the service, it sounded like I was in the living room
of a home hosting a family brunch. Initially, conversations
in the narthex could be heard in the nave, but then the conversations
moved right into the nave at full voice.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation use during the
Book of Common Prayer, Hymnal 1980, and the
bulletin, which included full text of the readings.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ. It sounded electric, but I did not venture into the gallery
Did anything distract you?
There were several distractions: occasional highway noise through
the open windows, full voice conversations in the nave prior
to the service, audible conversations during the offertory anthem,
and clapping after the anthems.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The worship style was very musical, semi-formal, and very huggy.
The day I visited, the choir was still on summer break, but
all of the hymns were sung heartily and in parts by the congregation.
The service was semi-formal in that the congregation knelt according
to Rite I tradition, even though the service was Rite II. The
huggy bit comes from one of the longest lasting exchanges of
peace I've ever experienced! Many of the greetings might have
been better left to the coffee hour.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 The rector read his sermon from a well-prepared text.
He related an uncomfortable gospel lesson (Luke 14:25-33 –
whoever will not give up everything cannot become a disciple
of Christ) to an everyday example.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The rector spoke of tennis great Andre Agassi's hatred of tennis
as a child, and the sacrifices his father demanded of him from
the age of four, which eventually led to professional and financial
success. Agassi sacrificed his youth practicing tennis to achieve
fame and earthly gain. As the young Andre gave up much in order
to achieve a goal, so too must we make sacrifices. Christ's
admonition to give up all provides no "wiggle room" and
cannot easily be reduced to metaphor. Be that as it may, the
rector said that he intended to hold onto his retirement savings
in the hope that he would be at least marginally qualified to
Which part of the service was like being in
Open, welcoming community and wonderful singing.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
People talking at full voice in the nave before the service.
I remembered the church where I had prayed the Sunday morning
my elderly father died (not unexpectedly), and that there was
prayerful space provided there for my thoughts. A troubled person
at this church would be rightfully annoyed by loud conversations
before the service.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't have to wait around at all! Everyone seemed to be expecting
me at the coffee hour.
How would you describe the after-service
As I'd expect in a rural college town. The refreshments were
provided by one family. There's a sign-up sheet on the bulletin
board in the narthex. Coffee and cold drinks were served in
mugs in the church hall. Nibbles included olives, crackers with
two dips, and two different cakes.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 I doubt that I will ever visit Lewisburg again, but
if I lived nearby I'd certainly join this parish and sing in
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. St Andrew's, Lewisburg, is a vibrant, loving community.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Talking in church before or during service. It's rude!
|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.