Mystery Worshipper: Preacher's Kid
Church: Church of the Transfiguration
Location: Dallas, Texas, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 7 August 2011, 11:15am
The information provided by the church is that the style of building is "modern Gothic." It was completed in 1970, with additions dating from 1997. Both the exterior and the interior are a mix of brick and stone. The bell tower was erected to house cellular telephone communications equipment in a marvelous example of church and industry working together for the good of the community. There is space for 27 bells in the tower, but the present peal consists of nine bells forged by the John Taylor Bellfounders of Loughborough, England. Topping the tower is a weathervane executed by William and Charlotte Hallett, artists of the triptych, altar, font and processional cross in the church. When you enter the church you step across a labyrinth patterned after that at Chartres Cathedral in France.
The congregation began in 1956 with 11 families as a second-generation mission in north Dallas. A flood in 1964 caused the congregation to move to its present location at Hillcrest and Spring Valley Roads. The church serves an affluent neighborhood in North Dallas. They are engaged in several ministries all well described on their website. Special mention goes to one: Dallas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), a non-profit organization that trains volunteers to represent children who have been taken into protective custody because of abuse or neglect (known as guardians ad litem in some jurisdictions).
This is an area of quiet streets with luxuriant foliage for Texas and home to several large houses of worship: Greek, Jewish and independent.
The Revd Joy A. Daley, vicar, was the celebrant. She was assisted by the Revd Jerry D. Godwin, rector, and the Revd Michael W. Merriman, priest of the parish. The lay chalice bearers were Francine Hamza-Gillam, Jerry Johnson, and Larry Wilson. Robert Bugbee, verger, served as the master of ceremonies. Pam Johnson was the lector; Christian Wyze the thurifer. Joel Martinson, director of music, presided at the organ. The choir was under the baton of Kimberley Ahrens, director of children's choirs.
What was the name of the service?Holy Eucharist and Baptism.
How full was the building?
About 90 per cent full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. I arrived early and the crowd from the prior service was gathering for coffee. I had the opportunity to hear the choir rehearse and to get a close look at the organ. The peace was warmly passed, but it comes at a different place in holy baptism.
Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfortable with Marian blue cushions and needlepoint.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Because the was a baptism, there was more hubbub than I would actually expect on a normal Sunday. Once the family was settled, things calmed down and the church took on a quiet prayerful mood.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome. This is our title Sunday, the Transfiguration of Our Lord."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Book of Common Prayer 1979 and the Hymnal 1982.
What musical instruments were played?
The organ, a magnificent tracker instrument housed in a beautiful baroque style case, opus 17 of Richards, Fowkes & Co. of Tennessee.
Did anything distract you?
Baptisms by their very nature are distracting, but at least there were no cell phones or other intrusive interjections. The extra children who were along created some commotion from time to time.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
This one is hard to classify: It was almost Texas high church, but nowhere near hemorrhage. The procession was led by the thurifer. At the gospel, the Bible was censed but curiously not brought down to the people. The altar got a generous censing, as did the congregants. Everyone stood for the prayers. The choral service was the Richard Proulx A Community Mass and the psalm was sung. The children's chapel participants came in for the baptism, sitting on the floor of the main aisle with a good view of the font. There was also a short talk by a teenager who had just returned from a church-sponsored trip to Scotland.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – I've heard better sermons; I've heard worse.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Youth Minister Jeb Honeyman told of reading Dr Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham" to his four-year-old and how the child totally missed the point of the story. He then compared "Sam I Am", the main character of that story, to the apostles who viewed the Transfiguration and missed the point. Some things require more than a superficial listening, he said. The Transfiguration is the embodiment of Christ's mission, and not just an event worthy of memorialization.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The organ, the choir, the singing, in that order. Also, the sound system was unintrusive but effective in short, a beauty!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The celebrant departed from the order printed in the service leaflet (or was the leaflet in error?). At any rate, confusion over page numbers resulted, with the necessary "Our service continues on page ___" breaking the train of worship.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was asked to sign the guest book and was then introduced to the clergy.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Someone made an early morning raid on Krispy Kreme. I think there may have been two dozen of each of the varieties of donuts they bake. And the coffee was good, hot, and strong!
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – A fine service nicely done, plus sincerely offered fellowship.
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 music, and the organ in particular!