Mystery Worshipper: Fading Lights
Church: Church of the Incarnation
Location: Dallas, Texas, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 9 July 2006, 11:15am
A large neo-Gothic church surrounded by a campus. I think there are two chapels, a library, bookstore and another building that is used for a comtemporary service held concurrently with the traditional liturgy. The interior is bright and spacious, with beautiful stained glass and an ornate organ case in the sanctuary that draws one's attention toward the altar.
They sponsor numerous ministries and outreaches all listed on their website, and are especially proud of their fine music program. The 11.15 Sunday service is actually two services. The congregation at the traditional service tended to be elderly and I'd say the mean age was at least 50. Despite the near 100 degree temperature, most of the men were dressed in coats and ties. The crowd at the contemporary service seemed to be younger.
The uptown area of Dallas is known for shopping and restaurants. This is a yuppie area with many condos.
The Rev. Frederick C. Philputt, vicar.
What was the name of the service?Choral Eucharist (traditional service)
How full was the building?
About half full. The congregation spead themselves out. I'd say maybe 150 people.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
An usher was engaged in conversation with someone at the door. He handed me a service sheet as well as a folder which had all the responses for the service.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, as comfortable as a non-padded pew can be. The kneelers were well cushioned, which is nice.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very quiet. The organ startled me as the prelude began.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
Something was chanted from the rear of the church prior to the processional hymn. I couldn't quite make out what it was. "Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" were the first words of the service after the procession.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The 1979 Book of Common Prayer as well as the 1982 Hymnal. However, most of the service was on a cardboard folder which made it easier to follow.
What musical instruments were played?
A magnificient pipe organ, expertly played. There was also a choir of about 20. The music at this church is of the highest quality.
Did anything distract you?
At least one light bulb was burned out in each chandelier around me. The person next to me seemed to have a lot of trouble with his kneeler.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Formal, but not bells and smells. I actually think incense would be a nice touch in this church. Thees and thous were present throughout the service.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The vicar was fairly plain spoken. Certainly no screaming or over enthusiasm. I got the impression that perhaps part of this sermon might have been recycled from other sermons. The microphone could have been turned up a bit as he was somewhat difficult to hear. Also, I was waiting for him to illustrate his remarks with a story, which alas was not forthcoming.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The Gospel was Mark 6:1-6, where Jesus receives a cool welcome in his home town synagogue and remarks, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house." The vicar spoke of people returning home and homecomings, and tied it in with lapsed Christians returning to the Church.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music. The organ was actually powerful enough to fill the church. The choir also sang perfectly.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
One of the most moving parts of the service was a brief discussion of present controversies in the Episcopal church, climaxing in a prayer for church unity. During the prayer, a mobile phone went off. Loudly. I'll never understand why people can't remember to turn off their phones!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not much. A couple of the members of the choir shook hands with me. Perhaps they noticed me avidly following the music during the service. It was a very hot day, so I can't fault people for not wanting to stick around.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Hmmm. It was lukewarm in styrofoam cups. Almost no one stayed for coffee, however. This church is located by many restaurants and I'm guessing most of the congregation went out for brunch immediately following the service.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I'll probably stop back again, but to try their contemporary service next time.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely. I love attending services where the music is of such high quality. Also, there was plenty of time for silent prayer, which I very much needed this day.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The organ startling me as the prelude began!