Christ Presbyterian, Tucson, Arizona

Christ Presbyterian, Tucson, Arizona, USA


Info and corrections →

Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Christ Presbyterian
Location: Tucson, Arizona, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 21 November 2010, 10:45am

The building

The 50-year-old campus has its primary entrance at the rear, where there are large open stairs and a wheelchair accessible ramp leading to the multipurpose room, fellowship hall, children's classrooms and sanctuary. The sanctuary in the round has a hardwood ceiling with exposed rafters. The focal point is the large stained glass skylight with individual colored recessed squares. Under the skylight is a large octagonal table, today covered with a while linen cloth and with white Christmas lights at the edge. On the table today were two crowns of thorns and a more traditional crown relating to the day's theme of Christ as king. The hardwood pews are set around the central table on cement risers with low pile carpeting on the walkways and aisles.

The church

CPC emphasizes helping those in need. Opening announcements referred to service projects relating to the military, single mothers, and a soup kitchen for the homeless. Two young girls were recognized by the pastor during announcements for completing a well-known bike race called "El Tour de Tucson." The girls received hearty applause from all. It was a sweet moment and contributed to a cosy sense of community in the parish.

The neighborhood

Tucson, about 90 miles south of Phoenix, impresses one as being a "kinder, gentler Phoenix," more laid-back and with more interesting architecture. The church is located along one of Tucson's busiest streets, and close to one of the busiest intersections. There is often a lot of traffic, as this is a also a major shopping district on Tucson's east side.

The cast

The Revd Steven Melde pastor; Lesley Abrams, children's ministry leader.

What was the name of the service?

Worship in the Traditions of CPC.

How full was the building?

The building was over half full. The congregation were made up of approximately 75 per cent senior citizens.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

The pastor welcomed me as I walked in. He introduced himself, and asked if I had come with anyone. I replied that I was just visiting on my own. He again welcomed me, and directed me to the sanctuary.

Was your pew comfortable?

The pews were upholstered and quite comfortable. This sentiment was apparently not shared by a woman in the pew in front of me, who brought along her own cushion.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

There was friendly but quiet conversing going on, which continued during the organ prelude.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Wow! That's good music, isn't it? Amen!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The hymnal was the Presbyterian Hymnal, but most people looked at an overhead screen for the lyrics. In the pew racks were copies of The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, but they didn't seem to be used by many people.

What musical instruments were played?

There was a pipe organ and a nine-member handbell choir.

Did anything distract you?

The only minor distraction was the pastor's microphone, which kept going on and off during the service.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

The traditional hymns were sung robustly, with nearly everyone participating. The singing was accompanied by the fabulous pipe organ, which seemed professionally played. The pastor was leading the singing by singing into his microphone, while standing among the congregation.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

17 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

5 – Pastor Steve Melde occasionally asked questions of the congregation during the sermon, and answers were called out. Another technique he used was silence. He would allow a moment of silence for emphasis after important points.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The sermon was entitled "Christ the King." Pastor Melde went over several Old Testament prophecies pointing to Jesus as the Messiah. Doubts sometimes arise, though, when we look around at the chaos and suffering that surrounds us. We can wonder where the promised peace and blessing of the Kingdom is. We cannot find ultimate answers through our intellect, but the truth of Christ is apprehended in our hearts, as we focus on his love, sacrifice, and humility.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Joining with the congregation in the enthusiastic hymn-singing and reciting the Lord's Prayer together.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

I felt somewhat concerned by the part of the sermon that suggested confirming our faith mainly through our inner subjective feelings. It reminded me of the Mormon "burning in the bosom" test. The concept of the Kingdom does raise some difficult questions, but helpful ways of looking at it throughout church history, such as Luther's doctrine of the two kingdoms, were not even mentioned.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

One woman greeted me with a cheery "hello", and then proceeded to inform me that she had just overheard someone say "damn it" right after church! She was thankful, though, that at least the offensive remark was spoken quietly.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

The after-service fellowship time was well attended. Small homemade pastries were served, accompanied by steaming coffee in paper cups.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

5 – The service was comforting and the atmosphere was warm and friendly. This church doubtless has large reservoirs of collective wisdom with so many "seasoned saints". My only hesitation would be my preference for expository Bible teaching.

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

Yes, absolutely!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

I will remember the beautiful and unique circular design of the sanctuary in the round.

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.

Comments and corrections

To comment, please scroll to the end of this report and add your thoughts there. To send us factual corrections, please contact us. We also discuss reports on our Ecclesiantics bulletin board.

© Ship of Fools