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2490: First United Methodist, Glendale, Arizona, USA
First UMC, Glendale, AZ (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Amanda B. Reckondwythe.
The church: First United Methodist, Glendale, Arizona, USA.
Denomination: United Methodist Church.
The building: Ground was broken for the present building in 1923, and it was dedicated in 1929. It is a traditional brick and granite structure, with beautiful stained glass (according to their website, as I visited at night and so could not see the glass) depicting scenes from the ministry of Jesus. The interior is of brick walls and wood beamed ceiling. A communion table stood against the east wall. Pulpit and lectern were both draped in purple.
The church: They are especially noted for their community outreaches. These include United Methodist Outreach Ministries, the largest family relief shelter in the state of Arizona; Justa Center, a support ministry for homeless senior citizens; and the Brad Riner Assistance Fund, named in memory of a young church member who died while hiking the Grand Canyon, which helps needy families pay utility bills and buy groceries. They have three services each Sunday: lay-led communion, traditional worship, and contemporary worship, along with Sunday school.
The neighborhood: Glendale is a sprawling suburb to the west of Phoenix, with a quaint, compact little downtown filled with antique shops, trendy restaurants and clothing boutiques. The church is located in the downtown area on a side street off the main avenue through town.
The cast: The Revd Kim Gladding, senior pastor, and the Revd Gerri Bast, minister of visitation, led the service. Larry Del Rae, traditional music minister, conducted the choir and congregation in the singing. Joyce McKean presided at the organ, but the lady who played piano was not identified.
The date & time: Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2013, 7.00pm.

What was the name of the service?
Ash Wednesday Service.

How full was the building?
I counted room for about 250. About 30 were present Ė few children, but adults of all ages.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A lady at the door said, "Good evening. Are you here for the service?" as she handed me the printed leaflet. She replied "Good" when I answered in the affirmative.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes Ė upholstered wooden pew.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People entered quietly. The only conversation I heard came from an elderly lady and teenage girl sitting in front of me Ė grandmother and granddaughter, I presumed. A minute or so before the start time, a party entered and visited rather loudly with the two of them. The organist played a quiet medley.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A printed leaflet and a hymnal entitled The Faith We Sing. The United Methodist Hymnal and The Holy Bible, New International Version, were also in the pews, but we didnít use them.

What musical instruments were played?
Electronic organ and piano. There was also a choir of five women and three men, all in casual street clothes.

Did anything distract you?
I found myself wishing that the stained glass was back-lit so it would be visible at night. I will have to return another time to see it, as it is said to be quite nice.

First UMC, Glendale, AZ (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was a formal devotional service of readings, prayers, responses and hymns. Pastor Kim wore a black cassock with no collar, under which showed blue jeans. The Revd Mrs Bast wore what appeared to be a black Geneva gown with a paisley stole over her left shoulder. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the stole was actually embroidered into the gown and was not paisley, but rather was filled with cartoon figures of children. At the conclusion of the service, everyone went forward to receive ashes, after which we exchanged the peace.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
5 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Pastor Kim walked back and forth in the aisle as he preached. He did not have any notes with him, but his talk seemed well prepared. To me, though, some of the points he was trying to make seemed a bit unclear.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
We like it when we are rewarded, but at the same time we often want our good works to remain anonymous. Even so, we become upset when our work produces results we had not intended. But the important thing is to love one another and God, to be authentic with God and with each other. That is how we will grow.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
An especially poignant moment occurred when, at the conclusion of the ashing, both clergy ashed each other.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Iím being fussy, I know, but I would have preferred to see the choir in robes and Pastor Kim in black trousers under his cassock.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Everyone left quietly. Pastor Kim was shaking hands at the door and giving everyone a hug. I told him he didnít have to hug me, and he said I could have one if I wanted. He asked me if I lived in the area and said he was glad I had come.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – I am comfortably ensconced in my own church, but I can see possibilities here. Iíll have to come back some time to see how they handle their Sunday service.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes.

First UMC, Glendale, AZ (Ashing)

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The clergy ashing each other.
 
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