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United Methodist, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Worshipper: MoboJobo, accompanied
by Amanda B. Reckondwythe.
United Methodist, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
The present Spanish Mission Revival style church, built in 1950
on land acquired in 1946 at what was then the outskirts of the
Phoenix city limits, is the fourth structure occupied by this
congregation. There is a large campus consisting of schoolrooms,
parish hall and sanctuary, enclosing a courtyard with several
fountains, a columbarium, and a vegetable and fruit garden.
The interior of the church is classic cathedral style, in dark
wood and red brick. A large space behind the altar is for choir
seating and will eventually accommodate the organ (see below).
In 1870 a lone circuit rider braved the scorching heat of the
Sonoran Desert to bring spiritual leadership to the small band
of settlers at what would eventually become city of Phoenix.
From that humble beginning, Central United Methodist has become
a major religious force in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Their
many diverse ministries and missions are all well documented
on their website. There is a parish nurse on staff to help parishioners
cope with physical and emotional issues as they relate to faith.
There are three services each Sunday, including a jazz service
held in the parish hall.
The church is located on Central Avenue, the heart of Phoenix’s
commercial district – the area known as the Central Corridor.
Several major banks and financial institutions, hi-tech companies,
law firms and government agencies, as well as the Phoenix Art
Museum, all call the Central Corridor home. The completion in
2008 of a light rail line connecting Central Avenue with the
eastern suburbs of Tempe and Mesa, on the one hand, and nearby
areas northwest of central Phoenix, on the other, has strengthened
the Central Corridor’s position in relation to posher
and trendier commercial areas east of downtown.
The Revd Larry Norris Jr, pastor, conducted the service and
preached the sermon. The liturgist was Ms Bonnie Hicks. The
organist was Dr Craig Westendorf. The choir director was Don
The date & time:
Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, November 10, 2013, 11.00am.
What was the name of the
Liturgy with Sermon and Choir.
How full was the building?
About 10 per cent full; there were approximately 25 singers
and the same number in the congregation.
Did anyone welcome you
We were wished a good morning and our hands were shaken by several
people as we approached the door. Once we were settled inside,
a lady named Helen Clark came up to our pew, introduced herself
and welcomed us, and gave us a tote bag with the church logo,
loaded with literature.
Was your pew comfortable?
Wooden pew, comfortable enough and remarkable for the generous knee room.
How would you describe the pre-service
Quiet and reverent, with some visiting. The service started
promptly on time.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation use during the
The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version; the United
Methodist Hymnal; and a nicely printed service leaflet.
What musical instruments
Pipe organ, an opus of Orgelbau Glatter-Götz. Installation
is ongoing, as the church is currently embroiled in litigation
with the architect over unfinished renovations intended to accommodate
the organ. Literature available at the back of the church illustrates
what will eventually be a fine organ case, but right now the
pipes sit rather unceremoniously on the floor at the back of
Did anything distract
The architecture: a recreation in red brick of a renaissance
cathedral with a Southwestern exterior. There are four beautiful
rose windows and multiple stained glass windows on the side
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Probably about as far up the candle as Methodists can imagine.
The crucifer and acolytes were vested in alb (under which, Miss
Amanda was pleased to note, they wore black trousers, black
socks and proper black leather shoes); Pastor Norris in a green
stole over his alb and cincture. The choir wore purple cassocks
with white surplices trimmed in purple. The liturgy was a mixture
of prayers, scriptural readings, congregational singing, and
several choir anthems. There was no communion service today.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 Simple and direct, clearly presented, but over-amplified,
especially considering the small number of people who were present
to hear it. The sound system did little to support the pastor's
direct and personal style.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Pastor Norris spoke on the Book of Haggai and how the Jews’
expectations of rebuilding Solomon's temple was more backward
looking than forward thinking. Haggai urged the returned Jews
to overcome their reluctance to rebuild the temple (which would
end up standing for 200 years longer than Solomon’s temple)
in confidence in the Lord. Are we, too, fearful of change, so
that we do nothing? Are our perspectives flawed? Do we dwell
on what we feel is impossible, when we should be thankful for
things that are done for us and to us? Remembrance is good,
but perhaps God is guiding us into new possibilities. The spirit
of God abides here and now, in our nation and the world. Why
don’t we take a walk in faith?
Which part of the service was like being in
We thought that everything about this service was heavenly,
from start to finish. The hymns were all old favorites, and
the anthems were sung masterfully by the superb choir (unpaid
amateurs, it should be noted, unlike the choirs in several other
mainline Phoenix churches). The short benediction verse by John
Rutter, sung from the center of the nave after the dismissal,
was especially moving.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
It was disturbing and thought-provoking to note that such a
wonderful service was taking place in an almost empty church.
This had to be combined with the hope that the prophetic reading
from Haggai was not unfounded.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The choir director complimented us on our singing and invited
us to join the choir should we wish to do so. Helen Clark, the
lady who had greeted us so warmly, caught up with us in the
courtyard and told us about the church's outreach to the Native
American and Haitian communities and its work with the homeless.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
There was none, but we retired to a nearby restaurant for an
excellent brunch as, we noted, did the choir director
and several choir members.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 Heaven on earth. Unfortunately Phoenix is not our
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, even though it does make us worry about the fate of mainline
Christianity and the future of the church in American society.
We are certainly challenged to face our responsibility, as Haggai
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The hymns and the Rutter benediction.
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