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2729: St Thomas More, Convent Station, New Jersey, USA
St Thomas More, Convent Station, NJ (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Kat.
The church: St Thomas More, Convent Station, New Jersey, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Diocese of Paterson.
The building: The church is set back from the main road behind a very big lawn (parking is in the back of the church). The building is six sided brick and very modern (one story) with a large steeple and a courtyard at the entrance complete with a three tiered fountain. Inside is dark wood and stained glass. There are three rows of pews to the left, three to the right, and then in the center is the baptismal font with the paschal candle next to it and a smaller set of pews behind it.
The church: The church appears to be very modern and new. They describe themselves as a young and growing parish and seem to be making a special effort to attract young people. They support a blood bank and "Souperbowl", a food collection project. They also have a Women's Guild and a bereavement group.
The neighborhood: Convent Station is an unincorporated community in north-central New Jersey, near Morristown. The name is derived from the railroad station built to serve the Academy of St Elizabeth, established in 1860 as the first girls' secondary school in the state, and still in operation today. Convent Station is still a stop on the Morristown line of the NJ Transit rail system. The neighborhood is upscale and includes the Madison Hotel, a posh hotel and venue for weddings and other social events.
The cast: No names were given, but I believe the celebrant was the Revd Joe Farias, pastor.
The date & time: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 27, 2014, 7.00pm.

What was the name of the service?
Mass.

How full was the building?
The building could seat quite a few people and it was respectably full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A gentleman in a white suit welcomed me in the entranceway as I walked in. He also directed me to where the church bulletins were kept (in a basket in the entryway).

Was your pew comfortable?
My pew was very comfortable. The pews were a dark wood with red cushions on them and then kneelers in front.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very, very quiet. People were praying mostly. There was a small group of elderly women who came in and sat a few rows behind me who were quietly chatting but other than that, it was silent with prayer.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
In the little holder in front of me, neatly arrayed, were the glossy cards with the standard prayers for RC churches, as well as Today's Missal (in large print) and Today's Songbook. Both the missal and songbook were in a plastic burgundy holder.

What musical instruments were played?
There was a very impressive pipe organ, opus 687 the Peragallo Organ Company of Paterson, New Jersey, but it stayed silent throughout this mass as there was no one to play it. No music at all!

Did anything distract you?
What distracted me was the silence. There was no music, very little pre-service chatter, and the prayers seemed short and a bit different from what I am used to.

St Thomas More, Convent Station, NJ (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was quiet and fast and to the point. But I am not complaining! I am used to windbags and music and bells and whistles in my home church.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
5 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The pastor seemed to meet everyone's eyes and engage with his audience. His sermon was short and to the point.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He asked the question, "Where are your treasures?" He started off with a story about a boy who had lost a contact lens while playing basketball. He looked everywhere but could not find it. Then his mother came out and found it right away. The point was that they were looking for different things: the boy was looking for a lens and the mother was looking for $300. The priest then went on to talk about our pearls or treasures in our lives – how we sometimes take our treasures for granted and how our treasures or pearls can be found inside ourselves. He mentioned love, community, hope and joy being treasures or pearls in our lives. He told us the gospel is a challenge to us in our lives and to think it over.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I have to say the church building itself was like being in heaven. I almost gasped when I first walked in. It is designed in a modern way and is unusual. I took special note of a glass case in which were kept the vessels containing holy oils – it looked almost like a museum display.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I am used to churches with song and music and so it was a bit weird to have such a fast mass with no music. The mass took a little over a half hour. I think this must be a record.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The priest headed out the door, as did the rest of the people – and so did I! Lots of talk on the way out. The priest shook hands and chatted with people. Everyone seemed very nice and friendly.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
But no food or coffee – everyone went home, I assume. There was no after-service get-together except for folks who talked in the parking lot or at the church door with the priest or each other.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I liked this church and I noticed that they need more volunteers for various ministries in the parish, so I think it is a welcoming parish.

St Thomas More, Convent Station, NJ (Fountain)

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I will remember the silence in the church and also how fast the mass was.
 
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