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Presbyterian, Rochester Hills, Michigan, USA
Worshipper: Angel Unaware.
Presbyterian, Rochester Hills, Michigan, USA.
Church (USA), Synod
of the Covenant, Presbytery
A conglomeration of a buildings. A former manse turned office
building is detached from a sanctuary constructed in 1978. But
an appended education wing built in 1992 makes the interior
passages hard to navigate. The sanctuary was recently renovated
to celebrate the churchís 50th anniversary and the result is
beautiful. A new terrazzo floor reflected dazzling light from
clerestory windows that flooded the space with natural light.
The church worships each Sunday morning at 9.00 and 10.30 throughout
the school year; 10.00 during the summer. University Presbyterian
offers Sunday Christian education programming for grades K-12
in addition to various adult continuing education opportunities.
There are also many social groups for youth and adults.
The church is nestled in a beautiful suburb of northern Detroit,
Rochester Hills. The area is highly sylvan in nature, appealing
to local athletes, celebrities and business executives looking
for privacy and upscale housing. The Oakland University campus
is just up the street from the church and occupies the former
estate of the Dodge family of automobile fame. To the northwest
is the Palace of Auburn Hills, home court venue of the Detroit
Pistons basketball team.
Two white-robed ministers presided: the Revd George Portice,
senior pastor, and the Revd Marianne Grano, associate pastor.
The date & time:
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 31, 2008, 10.00am.
What was the name of the
The Service for the Lordís Day.
How full was the building?
A bustling, robust and talkative crowd of about 130 congregants.
Did anyone welcome you
No one greeted me or approached me. I approached a young usher
and requested a bulletin for the day; it was then that he smiled
and said good morning. Most of the crisply-dressed congregants
were engaging in a pre-service mingle that excluded guests.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pews are new, of beautiful ash wood trimmed with a contrasting
stain. The bottom seat though not the back was
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
The church was lively as people found their places. The sanctuary
layout is of a cruciform shape, so it was easy to see congregants
entering and visiting amongst themselves. The organ prelude,
which began three minutes to the hour, failed to quiet things
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
"Grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ."
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
The Presbyterian Hymnal, and music from another hymnal
copied onto an insert. There was also a service leaflet that
contained a rather strange statement: "Stewardship is ...
adding to a compost pile." Iím still confused as to what
in the world this had to do with anything else happening in
the service that morning.
What musical instruments
The churchís electronic organ was played by the senior pastorís
Did anything distract
I learned that in celebration of the churchís 50th anniversary,
the sanctuary had just been remodeled in fact, this was
only its second week of use. Predictably, the new public address
system was not working properly. The associate pastor wore a
microphone headpiece, and apparently thought the glitch was
due to the manner in which the headpiece was balanced over her
ear. She kept adjusting the mouthpiece as though she were swatting
a fly. The hand-held microphones passed during the sharing of
prayer concerns did not work either.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Worship in this new space felt lively and robust. An excellent
acoustical space, combined with the use of a hymnal that included
four-part harmony, made for some wonderful singing even
if the organistsí tempi were consistently stodgy.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
7 Pastor Grano had a very effective, crisp and eloquent
style. She was easy to listen to, well prepared and polished.
Despite the unintentional but consistently offensive caricatures
of "poor black people" versus the "rich white
folk," the sermon had a good message and she made her point
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
Using the lectionary text of the day from Matthew 16 (Peter
confesses that Jesus is the Messiah), Pastor Grano wondered
how, in our modern world of diversity, we are to follow Christís
call to be one in him. Our world is not only diverse, but often
we create even more disparities amongst each other. Thus the
only remedy for unity is to know God in Christ, and to show
the love that God has shown us to someone else.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
Singing from a hymnal in four-part harmony.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
As children were invited to "come on down," Pastor
Grano unfurled and fluffed a large white blanket, set it on
the floor, and sat upon it with the children. It seemed
well unseemly! And we were instructed to stand and sit
at various times. The resulting confusion and havoc evoked peals
of laughter from the Presbyterian congregation apparently unused
to such calistenics.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
People filed out past me. I then asked a random parishioner
about the microphones, and it was she who explained that the
system was relatively new. Then she too hurried away.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
Nondescript and weak; surely an institutional blend.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 I would return for the hymnody and message. My hesitancy
would be that it would be difficult, socially, to find a place
in what felt to be an already well-bonded congregation.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
The minister trying so hard to be discreet as she fiddled with
her microphone headpiece. And that stewardship is adding to
a compost pile.
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