Mystery Worshipper: ACOL-ite
Church: Holy Faith
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 18 June 2006, 9:00am
A nice-looking stone structure, though a little out of place amongst all the stucco and adobe buildings that characterize Santa Fe. The congregation sit in pews surrounded by stained glass, including three windows depicting the virtues. The chancel is rather large, and behind the altar there is a very striking reredos carved in wood that provides an interesting contrast to the plain off-white wall at the back.
I thought the congregation seemed a bit low on youngsters, but the bulletin informed me that they were all away in Mexico building a house for a needy family. There are three services on Sunday plus morning prayer, eucharist or evening prayer on alternating weekdays. They sponsor several adult and children's ministries.
Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and a favorite habitat of artists, Santa Fe was founded in 1607 by Spanish explorers and is America's oldest capital city. The church is two blocks from Santa Fe's main plaza in what looks like a firmly residential area.
The Rt Rev. Roger White, retired bishop of Milwaukee and a long-standing friend of the parish, was filling in for the rector, who was on sabbatical. Assisting the bishop were the Rev. Duncan Lanum, deacons Joan Garcia and John Onstott, and several lay servers. Paul Corona, an apprentice artist at the Santa Fe Opera, offered two very good solos.
What was the name of the service?Choral Eucharist
How full was the building?
Reasonably full, although people seemed to be avoiding sitting in the pew in front of our party of eight visitors. There were four books in each pew, but it seemed to me that six people could fit comfortably in a pew. The majority were occupied by as many people as there were books.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Before mass, our party was standing outside in the sun. One of the greeters approached, talked to us a bit, and invited us inside. After mass had begun she came and sat with us. A nice touch, I thought (or possibly we'd stolen her regular seat!). After mass a gentleman introduced himself as we were waiting to shake the bishop's hand.
Was your pew comfortable?
I didn't really notice anything special about the pew. It was perfectly adequate.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet chatter. Those in our party more knowledgeable in matters Anglican were studying the order of service with approval ("Ooh: it's Rite I!").
What were the exact opening words of the service?
The service began with a musical offering from Paul Corona, the opera apprentice. The bulletin claimed he was singing Bach's Blessed Jesu, at Thy Word, but I couldn't make out the words so I'm not at all sure.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A homemade bulletin directed us between the 1979 Prayer Book and 1982 Hymnal. There were Revised Standard Version Bibles in the pews also, but I didn't see anyone use them.
What musical instruments were played?
A perfectly fine sounding organ. The organist didn't attempt any theatrics, but accompanied the soloist, choir and congregation with sensitivity. I don't think he improvised any harmonies during the hymns, but he did dash off a little fantasia on one of the hymns as a Gospel recessional.
Did anything distract you?
The prayer book-hymnal-bulletin shuffle was a bit of a distraction, but I imagine that if I worshipped here regularly I'd learn all the prayers eventually and so be able to retire at least one of the books. I also felt rather disracted by how the other gentlemen around me were dressed. No one made me feel uncomfortable, but I was wishing I'd put on long trousers.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Stiff-upper-lip describes it pretty well. Bells, but no smells. Traditional language, very short exchange of peace, robust hymns – you get the picture.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Bishop White preached. He spoke clearly and said nothing I could disagree with, but, like the organist, never really got exciting, either in his delivery or subject matter.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The kingdom of God. This world can be dark, but we have the Kingdom to look forward to. The Kingdom is both a "now" and a "not yet" thing: our mission is to help bring it about. Pumpkin seeds grow quickly, but date seeds take a long time to mature into a tree. One way to bring God's kingdom about is through evangelism.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music was great. I liked both the language and theology of the hymns. The organ and choir accompaniment were a real aid to congregation singing. I really enjoyed singing those hymns.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Everything was perfectly timed so as to give no chance for quiet reflection. For example, the epistoler arrived at the lectern just as the psalm concluded. Had he stayed in his pew until the end of the psalm, we would have had just the right amount of time to reflect on what we'd heard before he began the next reading. There was also no time to add our own petitions (even in the silence of our hearts) during the prayers of the faithful.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I waited in the line to get out past the bishop, possibly looking lost. The gentleman in front of me introduced himself and we chatted briefly.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Unfortunately, I couldn't stay.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – I would be pleased to visit again were I to return to Santa Fe, but I am not Anglican and have no intention of converting.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, especially the hymn singing.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Pumpkin seeds grow quickly but date seeds take a long time.