Mystery Worshipper: Amanda B. Reckondwyth
Church: Faith Presbyterian
Location: Sun City, Arizona, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 27 May 2012, 10:00am
An attractive modern structure with detached bell tower. The inside resembles a theatre, with a stage at one end of a large room. On stage is a wooden altar in which is embedded a carving of the Last Supper. Choir seating is behind the altar, and on the rear wall is a large cross.
They support a number of ministries, including Presbyterian Women, a care ministry, Going Green, Habitat for Humanity, etc. Special mention goes to Just Coffee, which channels the proceeds from Sunday after-service coffee sales to a mission in Mexico.
Sun City was developed as a middle-class retirement community by one Delbert Eugene Webb, a highly successful real estate entrepreneur. Webb was also responsible for an internment camp in Arizona where Japanese-American citizens were detained during World War II, plus several casinos and hotels in Las Vegas, including the Flamingo, which he built for mobster Bugsy Siegel. The Arizona desert is known for extended periods of 100 degree plus temperatures (Fahrenheit) during the summer, and comedienne Bette Midler once quipped that Sun City was the only place in the country where, in order to live there, your age had to match the temperature. The church is located on Del Webb Boulevard just south of Bell Road, in a neighborhood of single family houses, golf courses, and a few other churches.
The Revd David L. Van Arsdale, pastor, led the service and preached. The Revd Gloria S. Sannermark, assistant pastor, helped with the communion service. Dale McCurdy, pastoral associate, and Sandy Foell also participated. Music was provided by Sally Siekmann, pianist, and Chris Granger, organist.
What was the name of the service?Worship Service.
How full was the building?
It is a large church; I counted room for about 800. Id say it was about two-thirds full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Greeters at the door said "Good morning," as did a lady handing out service sheets. The pastor was visiting from pew to pew, and we chatted a bit when he stopped at my pew.
Was your pew comfortable?
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Lots of visiting, but not overly boisterous. The pastor was working the room, as mentioned above. The pianist was playing a medley of hymns. The choir took their places just before the service started.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, all. Good to see you today."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version; The Presbyterian Hymnal; service sheet. An older hymnal, The Hymnbook, was also in the pews but we didn't use it.
What musical instruments were played?
Grand piano and a large electronic organ. There was also a choir of 23 voices.
Did anything distract you?
For once I can honestly say no, nothing did. No cell phones, no crying babies, no going to and fro. The majority of people wore red in keeping with Pentecost, and I suppose that was somewhat distracting but in a good way.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Standard Presbyterian communion service, with call to worship, confession and assurance of pardon, scripture readings, sermon, affirmation of faith, eucharist and dismissal. The clergy were each vested in white Geneva gown and red stole; all others wore street clothes. The hymns were traditional and well-chosen, featuring several spirituals. Communion was done pew-style - the clergy broke a loaf of bread but we received individual crouton-like cubes and wee cuppies while the broken loaf remained untouched. I'm not sure what Jesus' Jewish mother would have to say about good food going to waste.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – A well prepared message, well delivered.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The pastor mentioned the film Field of Dreams as a metaphor for optimism and hope. Pentecost is a day to remember where the Church came from and where it is going. No matter how "out of shape" the modern Church may have become, it is still God's Church and will always enjoy the continuing assurance of God's presence. The Church is always changing under the guiding hand of God. Without change, it would become a museum. The love of Christ draws us always toward closer and more caring fellowship with each other. The way is challenging, but Christ is always walking with his Church.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music was top-rate. Both the pianist and organist played with competence, and the choir sang beautifully and with great professionalism. At communion, the pianist played a meditation on "Were you there when they crucified my Lord", which was very touching.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
At the doxology we didn't praise "Father, Son and Holy Ghost," but rather "Triune God, whom we adore." I hate it when perfectly good prayers are ruined by an attempt at all-inclusiveness.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I had noticed that the lady sitting next to me was taking pictures during the service also. As the organist struck up the recessional, she asked me if my photos had turned out. "Call me old-fashioned," I said, "but I never check my photos while they are still in the camera - I always wait until I copy them to the computer." She also said that I needn't have bothered taking notes, as recordings of all services are available for a small fee. She also reminded me to be sure to stop by for coffee. As I was walking out, the pastor shook my hand and said it was nice that I had come.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Strong, hot coffee, just the way I like it, served in styrofoam cups. There was also an assortment of cookies and cakes. People sat at tables visiting, but no one seemed to notice me. Finally, as I was walking out, a lady said, "You're a visitor, arent you?" and we chatted a bit.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I liked the preaching, the music, and their approach to liturgy, and these are the things I look for in a church. I'll be back another time.
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 pianist's meditation on "Were you there."