Opened just this year, it is a large church in the Spanish Mission style. (They had previously worshipped in a variety of school auditoriums.) Twin bell towers of differing heights flank the entrance. Inside is a large, bright room, with white walls and dark wooden trim. Wild West style chandeliers hang from the ceiling. The communion table sits on a platform, with a cross mounted on the beige stone wall behind. The table is flanked by candelabra and was set for communion.
Their several ministries are well documented on their website: men's forum; womens studie's; children's, youth and young adult groups; outreach and support; dinner groups in members' homes; etc.
They are located at a busy crossroads in this upper-middle-class suburb of Phoenix, across the street from Goodyear Community Park in a neighborhood of large multi-bedroom houses. Just a few miles away is Luke Air Force Base.
The Revd Josh Creason, visiting minister. The pastor was away. Elder Dirk Uphoff gave the greeting and led one of the prayers. The pianist's name was not given.
What was the name of the service?Worship Service.
How full was the building?
I counted room for about 300 and it was about half full - young adult to middle aged crowd, lots of families with children, small and teenage. Most people came in just as the service was starting.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No one was stationed at the door; I helped myself to a service leaflet (large print edition was also available - nice touch). After I sat down, a gentleman introduced himself as Dirk (Elder Dirk Uphoff, as it turns out) and welcomed me. Shortly after, a lady named Gail introduced herself (Gail Howitt, ministry coordinator) and we chatted a bit. Finally a gentleman introduced himself as Dave (Elder Dave Campbell, I'm pretty sure) and warned me that the acoustics were a bit on the live side. "You've never been to St Paul's Cathedral, London, have you?" I asked.
Was your pew comfortable?
Wooden pew without cushions - comfortable, but my derriere started to ache as the sermon droned on (see below). There were also padded kneelers (in a Presbyterian church!).
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People visited amongst themselves. The pianist struck up a fantasia on "Holy God We Praise Thy Name." I wondered how many ex-Catholics were there who recognized it. The service leaflet requested that we take this time to prepare to meet with God in worship, but everyone seemed more bent on meeting with each other. When the pianist began her prelude, they only talked louder so as not to let her drown them out.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome to King of Kings."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. Everything was in the service leaflet. The leaflet indicated that we would find Bibles under the pews, but there were none.
What musical instruments were played?
Grand piano, nicely tuned and nicely played. I was thinking how wonderful a good digital organ would sound in those live acoustics. There were two vocalists who led the singing, but no choir.
Did anything distract you?
Well, the acoustics were very, very live, so much so that I had to strain to understand what was being said. Throughout the service, but especially during the sermon, people kept getting up and leaving and then returning shortly. Answering a call of nature, I would imagine - surely not a call from God.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A staid but heartfelt hymn sandwich. The hymns were all traditional and lustily sung. We confessed our sins but did not receive an assurance of pardon. In lieu of a creed, we recited selections from the Heidelberg Catechism. We knelt for one of the prayers. Communion was preceded by an Anglo-Catholic type preface and included a eucharistic prayer and proclamation of the mystery of faith, but no words of institution were pronounced (unless you count what we read from the Heidelberg Catechism) nor was an epiclesis included. We received communion from a loaf of whole-wheat bread and wee cuppies of grape juice (red or white - our choice), although the minister drank from a chalice.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
(Children's sermon) 4 minutes; (adult sermon) 40 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – The Revd Josh Creason preached in style and substance that would have gone over very well in a small Bible study group or in a church with better acoustics. However, given the acoustics of this church, I had to strain to understand him and quickly grew restless and weary doing so. Looking about me, I spotted others who seemed equally restless and weary, especially two teenage boys in the pew in front of me (about whom more in a moment). It's been said that every good sermon has at least three exit routes, and the preacher should always take the first! The Revd Josh could have made his points very effectively in one-quarter of the time he took.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The adult sermon was the adult version of the children's sermon, which posed the question: What do you want? We are often unhappy when we don't get what we want, but there are some people who know what they don't want - they don't want God! But God promises life. From there, the adult sermon went on to say that some people want to serve themselves, not God. They want God to do things that were never meant to happen. Some people think they have no need for God. They go through the motions of worship, but their hearts are far from God. But there are things that we ourselves will never be able to do - things that only God can do. God is faithful to us and loves us. Can't we return the favor? Take the Lord and live!
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
One of the hymns - "My Jesus I Love Thee" to the tune of Caritas - was especially moving and a joy to sing. But in fact, all of the music was of high caliber and very well done.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Oh, those acoustics! They have to get an acoustical engineer in there pronto and they know it! Aside from those already mentioned, there were several discrepancies between the service leaflet and the service itself. A footnote went on at length about why ministers wear robes, and yet the Revd Josh was dressed in an open-neck blue shirt and khaki slacks. The proclamation after the scripture reading was given as "The gospel of the Lord" although the reading was from Amos. Speaking of the reading, it was listed as Amos 1:2-6:14 but was actually 5:1-15 ("Hate evil, love good"). These are not hellish, to be sure, but were distracting especially to a stranger.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I said to one of the teenage boys sitting in front of me, "You're not used to kneeling, are you?" I told him that what he had been doing is known as the Episcopal Squat. He seemed amused. His father said hello and asked me if this were my first time there. I asked him if their regular pastor was as wordy as the Revd Josh. Elder Dave, who had shook my hand earlier, came up and shook my hand again. No one else said anything to me, though.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Serve-yourself coffee was available, but no nosh. The coffee was strong - I like strong coffee but this was too strong; I couldn't finish my cup.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – They seem like a nice bunch of people. The building is lovely, the service was reverently done and the music was very much to my liking. I'll have to go back and hear the regular pastor preach, though, before passing final judgment. And I'll wait until after the acoustical engineer has done his thing, if you don't mind.
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 teenage boys doing the Episcopal Squat.