Mystery Worshipper: Tukai
Church: St Mark's
Location: Buderim, Queensland, Australia
Date of visit: Sunday, 19 November 2017, 10:30am
Modern (1980s) beige brick building of medium size, seating about 200 on a single floor. The interior features a striking 1990s modern east window showing the lion of St Mark and the Cross against a background of subtropical greenery. On one side of the sanctuary is the Good Shepherd window from the smaller wooden building next door, which served as the church from its foundation in 1917 until the new one was built in 1988. On the other side of the sanctuary is a small Lady chapel.
As the sign outside proudly proclaims, 2017 is the centenary of the church's foundation. There is an active music group and several prayer/study groups. In addition to holding three services each Sunday morning, the church holds a series of Taizé services each year, and the priest is part of a roster of local ministers holding weekday services at local aged care facilities. At present the church is prayerfully awaiting the appointment of a new vicar.
Buderim lies on top of a hill (locally called "the mountain") about 5km inland from the beaches of the Sunshine Coast, and about 100km north of Brisbane. When the church was founded in 1917, Buderim was a small rural village surrounded by farms. Over the years the farms shifted crops from sugar cane, through bananas and pineapples, until by the 1980s the main "crop" was houses. It is now a middle-class residential area boasting many fine views towards the beaches and the ocean. St Mark's lies on the main road along the narrow ridge-top. On the other side of the road is the local State (primary) school, which has expanded in parallel with the church from a one-teacher hut to having about 1200 pupils. Not far away on the same road are the local Uniting and RC churches.
Celebrant and preacher: the Revd Ken Beer (he is a local resident but not the actual locum priest). The choir was led by Ms Ann Meares.
What was the name of the service?Choral Eucharist.
How full was the building?
About one-third full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The person handing us a pew sheet wished us good morning. And at one stage the man in the pew in front turned round to apologise for accidentally knocking our hymnbooks onto the floor.
Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfortable, because each individual place on the pew came equipped with a beautifully embroidered cushion. The cushions have been made over the past 30 years or so by the congregation's sewing guild. They are all different, and feature cross-stitch pictures of Australian fauna and flora. They may originally have been intended for use as kneelers, but I didn't see anyone use one as such.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. We commence our worship this morning by singing hymn number ..." The celebrant then retreated to the back of the church, to re-enter with the procession.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A Prayer Book for Australia and Together in Song. The full text of the Bible readings was in the pew sheet for the day.
What musical instruments were played?
A splendid looking pipe organ of 76 pipes, installed high at the back of the church. According to the booklet outlining a brief history of the church, this organ was salvaged from a decommissioned church in another state. It is an opus of George Fincham & Sons of Melbourne dating from 1986 and installed at St Mark's by Australian Pipe Organs Pty Ltd, who did some revoicing and added a facade of non-speaking pipes that blend with the speaking diapasons.
Did anything distract you?
Perusing the various pew cushions that I could see from my place.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Moderately formal Anglican. The priest was robed, the gospel was marched in to the centre of the congregation to be read there, and a small hand-bell was rung as the host and wine were consecrated. A mixed choir, seated behind the rest of the congregation, competently sung or chanted (as called upon) the Kyrie, Gloria, Psalm 150, and the various hymns.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The priest spoke clearly from the lectern in a measured manner. Faced with some difficult readings for the day (e.g., the lead-up to the story of Deborah and the tent-peg in the Old Testament, Judges 4), he successfully skirted around them, but still managed to make a sermon pertinent to the local situation.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
His opening text came from Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" about the glorious beauty of God's creation, and the spiritual experience of this making us feel close to God. He talked of other types of spiritual experience, including the disciplines of prayer and worship. Casting what I thought was a long bow, he eventually related these ideas to the gospel for the day (the parable of the talents, Matthew 25) in which the lazy servant failed to make himself open to his master.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Contemplating the beauty of the cushions and of the east window.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The microphone went dim throughout the second reading. As one of the sound technicians in my home congregation, I was acutely aware of this and waited for it to be fixed. Fortunately it was fixed in time for the sermon.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We had a family gathering to go to, so did not hang around, but were greeted politely at the door as we went out.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was explicitly offered in the course of the notices, but we did not partake.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – If I lived in this district.
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 embroidered seat cushions.