|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.
Church Anglican, Carefree, Arizona, USA
Worshipper: Amanda B. Reckondwythe.
Church Anglican, Carefree, Arizona, USA.
Traditional Episcopal Church, Anglican
Province of Christ the King, Diocese of the Southwestern
It’s in the Spanish Mission style and was consecrated in 1999.
The interior is very simple, with white walls and dark brown
ceiling. An eastward-facing altar sits atop three steps. In
the courtyard stands a large stone cross, a work by local
sculptor Robert Thornley that is patterned after the Ruthwell
Cross of Dumfriesshire, Scotland.
Quoting from their website: they are "a founding member of
the Diocese of the Southwestern States in the Anglican Province
of Christ the King, which began as an outreach from the clergy
of Saint Nicholas Anglican Church, Scottsdale, Arizona in
July of 1997." They claim to have a strong music program,
beginning with the Cherub Choir, continuing through Sunday
school music classes, and culminating in Cantus Ensemble,
the parish’s primary choral group. (I have reason for doubting
the program’s strength, as will be seen.) They also offer
Jubilate, a music class open to persons of all ages who wish
to learn more about the role of music in worship. They have
men’s and women’s groups that meet for breakfast. They are
also linked in some way to a grammar school in Sierra Leone,
again as will be seen. Their newsletter, Angelus,
comes out regularly but appears last to have been uploaded
to their website in 2009. Likewise, their online calendar
is bereft of entries. (Had it not been, I would have been
forewarned about today’s service!)
Carefree, one of the northeastern suburbs of Phoenix, was developed
in the 1950s as a master planned upscale community that strives
toward the kind of relaxed lifestyle that only money can buy.
The town fathers may have carried things to a bit of an extreme,
though, with street names such as Tranquil Trail, Serene Way,
and Ho-Hum Road. The town center features a copper sundial said
to be the third largest in the Western Hemisphere. Until 1999,
Carefree was home to Southwestern Studios, where the 1970s TV
program The New Dick Van Dyke Show was produced (the
show was set in Phoenix) and where films including Zabriski
Point and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure were
shot, along with some Orson Welles and Bob Hope features. Today,
Dick Van Dyke makes Carefree his home. The church is located
just west of the center of town.
The Revd Steven Dart, rector, was the celebrant. The Revd
Canon F.T. Rodier, assistant priest, was the gospeller. The
Revd Frank Hume-Dawson preached. Karen Janusz presided at
The date & time:
Trinity Sunday, May 26, 2013, 10.30am.
What was the name of
Annual Thanksgiving Service: The Sierra Leone Grammar School
Alumni Association of North America, West Coast Chapter.
How full was the building?
I counted room for about 100. It was half full at the start
of the service, but a large number of latecomers made it almost
completely full by gospel time.
Did anyone welcome you
No. Service leaflets were available on a stand in the narthex.
After I had sat down, a lady entering the pew in front of
me wished me a good morning and asked me if bulletins were
available. I told her where I had found mine, and she said,
"Do we pick up our own, then?" I replied that I was as much
a first-time visitor as she was.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes – cushioned pew.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Very noisy – lots of visiting. I suspect that the majority
of the congregation were friends and family of the Sierra
Leone Grammar School alumni or of the baptismal party.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"Good morning. Welcome to Christ Church on this beautiful
Trinity Sunday." The procession consisted of crucifer in cassock
and cotta, gospeller in alb and stole, preacher in lace alb,
preacher’s scarf, academic hood and (alone among the clergy)
biretta, and the celebrant in full eucharistic vestiture.
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
Book of Common Prayer (1928), Hymnal (1940),
a paperbound booklet entitled Christ Church Visitors’
Guide for the Service of Holy Communion. There was also
a service leaflet, which consisted primarily of page references
to itself – that is to say, the first part was an outline
of the service and referred to prayers and hymns printed farther
toward the back.
What musical instruments
Pipe organ, from a console in the gallery. The choir also
sang from the gallery.
Did anything distract
There were many distractions, both good and bad. The grammar
school alumni looked very smart in their school blazers and
ties. But all during the service, a steady stream of people
got up and left at various times, only to return a moment
later, including (alas) my pewmates. The crucifer was apparently
not used to genuflecting, as whenever he did so he appeared
on the verge of losing his balance.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
It tried to be stiff-upper-lip but seemed surprisingly informal
and unrehearsed. It included a baptism, which was not announced
in the service bulletin. There were bells and genuflections,
and bowing at the name of Jesus, but no incense. I was surprised
at the number of congregants who didn’t take communion. The
service concluded with a Te Deum (listed in the bulletin
as "the Tedium", and
for good reason), which was sung and played so badly that
it actually had people in the congregation scratching their
heads in amazement. This was followed by a rousing rendition
of the Sierra Leone Grammar School Song and the Sierra Leone
National Anthem – both a cappella, as the organist
said (when the rector asked her to play them) that she didn’t
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
2 Father Hume-Dawson held a plastic water bottle, from
which he took a generous swig before beginning his sermon
and from which he refreshed himself often during same. He
held it the entire time and waved it about, much as an Orthodox
priest holds a crucifix while preaching. He kept his eyes
buried in his notes almost the entire time, and spoke with
a heavy Sierra Leonean accent that was hard to understand.
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
Many Christians are intelligent, faithful people, and yet
don’t understand their faith. We did not have a lot of options
when we were born – the time and place of our birth, what
name our parents would choose for us, etc. – and we don’t
have a lot of options either at our "second birth" – and yet
we must be "born again" ("again" also meaning "from above")
in order to be saved. Baptism is our second birth. Regardless
of what difficulties we may face in life, we must allow ourselves
to be born again.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
I had not experienced the 1928 baptismal rite before, and
I was struck by its beauty. At the offertory, two choir members
sang Carl Schalk’s Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word
as a duet, which came off rather nicely.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
But the communion anthems – an anonymous 16th century motet
and a Benedictus by Adam Gumpelzhaimer – didn’t fare
as well. In fact, the music in general was of a caliber that
made me wonder just how strong their music program is. The organist
seemed unaware that the organ included diapason and string stops
(she favored flutes even to support the congregational singing),
and apparently confused the swell pedal for a bellows, so assiduously
did she keep pumping it. The choir lacked volume and did not
blend, and had a propensity for going sour, especially in the
Amen at the end of each hymn. Hardly anyone in the congregation
sang not surprising, given the lack of support from the
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
The service had gone on for almost two hours, and I was in
no mood to hang around looking like anything. I would have
run screaming from the place ages ago had I not been Mystery
Worshipping. I looked around for a side door to slip out of
without having to shake hands with the clergy, and fortunately
I found one.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
A buffet luncheon had been spread out in honor of the Alumni
Association reunion, but as of yet there was no one in the
hall when I poked my head in to look. I wasn’t in the mood
to acquaint myself with the cuisine of Sierra Leone, so I
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
0 No way! I know that today’s service was a special occasion,
but this is how they do their special occasions? What could
an ordinary Sunday be like? Surely the organist knew beforehand
that the service would conclude with the Sierra Leone National
Anthem, but she couldn't trouble herself to find a copy and
learn it? If I were a Sierra Leonean, I would take it as an
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 preacher waving his water bottle about.
|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.