St Martin de Porres, Syracuse, IN (Exterior)

St Martin de Porres, Syracuse, Indiana, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Martin de Porres
Location: Syracuse, Indiana, USA
Date of visit: Saturday, 19 May 2012, 5:00pm

The building

The building dates from 1966, the year the parish was established, and has been said by some to resemble an overturned boat. Against the east wall, behind the free-standing altar, is a large crucifix. Renovations were undertaken beginning in 2005, including a narthex, additional classroom space, and expanded parking.

The church

They do not have a website of their own, nor could I learn anything about any parish organizations or activities.

The neighborhood

Syracuse is a small town in northern Indiana situated near several lakes, including the largest natural lake in the state. The environment attracts a large number of summer residents. The town has a quaint, old-fashioned look that is rapidly vanishing from the American landscape. The downtown area features tree-lined streets and well-preserved historic buildings that are home to a variety of businesses.

The cast

The Revd Richard Hire, pastor, was the celebrating priest and preacher. I didn't get the names of the lector or musician.

What was the name of the service?


How full was the building?

It was comfortably full without being crowded. I would guess that 150 people were present. They seemed to be a mix of permanent and summer residents – "Lake People."

Did anyone welcome you personally?

A gentleman smiled and held the door open for me as we entered. He and another parishioner spoke with me after mass, but there was no other greeting.

Was your pew comfortable?

It was comfortable, if slick. The pews were set at an angle, and so I was somewhat confused as to which was my pew when entering from the side vs the center aisle. But I've been in the wrong pew before.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

I arrived about 20 minutes early, and the Rosary was being recited.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good evening."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Glory and Praise and We Celebrate.

What musical instruments were played?

Acoustic guitar, nicely played by someone who I assume was also the cantor. I sat rather forward in the church and couldn't see the individual playing. The guitar was a fine support for the congregational singing and didn't draw a lot of attention to itself.

Did anything distract you?

Aside from getting lost in the pews, I noticed a family in front of me complete with grandparents and some children. At times, I found their earnest piety more interesting than much of the liturgical action, especially when grandpa whispered to the little boy, "We should have brought our rosaries."

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Dispassionate might be the word. Nothing was left out. Nothing was hurried. But they managed to get the whole mass over with in 43 minutes flat. I was glad I had been to Ascension Day mass on Thursday or I would have felt I had missed the feast this year.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

3 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

5 – Father had that bit of affectation I call "chancel talk." Not unpleasant, but a bit stagy.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The Ascension marked the end of Christ's ministry on earth and the beginning of the ministry of the Church.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The hymn singing was really very nice, although we didn't sing more than two or three verses of anything. And you could hear the people singing together.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

But the psalm singing and the mass setting were dreadful. I understand from a service leaflet handed out after the fact that we were singing the chants suggested by the diocese. But there was no indication of where the written music could be found. It might have been in one of the books in the pews, but I couldn't find it.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

Not much. A couple of people told me they enjoyed my singing. Mostly people tidied up and left.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

None was offered.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

3 – I did not feel unwelcome, but I didn't seem to be a part of the body.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes. But it wouldn't have converted me.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

That the same congregation could be so rich and so poor in their music at the same service.

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