Mystery Worshipper: Joliet Jane
Location: Marietta, Georgia, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 18 July 2010, 11:00am
It is a large, modern, triangular structure with the roof sloping almost to the ground on both sides, set in a neatly landscaped garden. The building is well maintained, and features a large collection of modern stained glass. There is no access from the main street but easy access from a side street.
They have four choirs: children, adults, and children's and adults' handbells. They offer a vacation Bible school, and are developing a military ministry for troops returning from war zones. There is also a ministry task force committed to increasing the representation of persons of color in the congregation, which was in the bulletin and mentioned by the pastor from the pulpit. It seemed to be working, as the musician was Asian and there were African Americans and people of mixed heritage at the service I attended. The church shares a parking lot with a Conservative Jewish Synagogue and the local Y uses the church soccer field.
It is located in one of the busiest areas of a major growth area of Cobb County, in north metropolitan Atlanta. The neighborhood is upper middle class, yet multicultural, with some homes that probably go for up to a million dollars.
The Revd Jerry Reynolds, pastor, led the service. The children's message was given by Anne Cardenas. The lector was Bob Augestad, and Wooyoung Choi was the musician.
What was the name of the service?Service of Holy Communion and Worship
How full was the building?
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. As I walked in the door, someone shook my hand and handed me a bulletin. During sharing the peace at least 20 people shook hands with me. There was no conversation during the sharing of the peace, just the greeting.
Was your pew comfortable?
Extremely comfortable, and the kneelers were comfortable as well.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Mostly deserted as people arrived right at 11.00 or shortly after.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome! Some of you are out of your assigned seats." It was a great ice-breaker and showed the humor of the pastor.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version was in the pews. However all scripture readings were printed in the bulletin. The hymnal was identified by name and color and used throughout the service.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano.
Did anything distract you?
No distractions whatsoever.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was reserved and unemotional, very generic, no hand-clapping, almost high church with a funny pastor who tried to keep it light. At communion, the ushers directed the congregation to line up to receive a wafer from the pastor, who stood in front of the altar. Then we dipped our wafers in the wine.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – I liked this guy. He added just the right bit of humor and wit.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was about the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). He talked about how you don't want a church full of Marys sitting around hearing the Word without performing any service. However, nor do you want a church full of Marthas who are so busy serving that they don't hear the Word.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
After the service we were asked to stay and listen to the postlude. It was wonderful to have time to reflect on the message with this beautiful music. I found it an awesome addition to the worship experience.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I didn't enjoy the style of taking communion by dipping the wafer into the wine. I prefer the humility of going to an altar rail.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was invited to coffee in the fellowship hall.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I left after being there for about 12 minutes, which seemed much longer with no one speaking to me. Members of the congregation enjoyed fellowship with each other, just not with me.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – The service was great. During the service people were very warm and inviting, but the after-service reception was a letdown.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, because of the excellent music selections.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The importance of balancing being a Mary and a Martha. The need to be a bit of both and not an extreme of either.