Whiteface Community UMC, Wilmington, NY

Whiteface Community United Methodist, Wilmington, New York, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Whiteface Community United Methodist
Location: Wilmington, New York, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 7 August 2016, 10:30am

The building

A simple, unadorned, small building of red brick constructed in 1834. One goes up a number of stairs to the sanctuary, which I would estimate would hold about 200 parishioners. On the lower level there is a large open room as well as a kitchen, where we had coffee after the service.

The church

They support Habitat for Humanity, host community dinners, and operate a volunteer-run thrift shop two days per week, the proceeds from which go toward the upkeep of the church building.

The neighborhood

Wilmington is a small hamlet nestled in the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York State at the foot of Whiteface Mountain, which gives the church its name. Whiteface Mountain was the site of alpine events for the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics and is a popular winter destination for skiers. The fantasy village of North Pole, the site of Santa's Workshop (America's oldest theme park, opened in 1949), is nearby, as is the village of Lake Placid.

The cast

The Revd Helen M. Beck, pastor.

What was the name of the service?

Sunday Worship.

How full was the building?

Two-thirds full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

We were warmly greeted at the door with a handshake and invitation to sign the guest book, and were handed an order of service. Inside, just about every parishioner within hearing distance of our pew greeted us. We were asked about where we were from, how long we were visiting for, etc. The pastor worked the room, walking around and personally greeting and speaking to everyone she could prior to the service. We were included in her greetings.

Was your pew comfortable?

It must have been all right because I don't remember a thing about it.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Most people were chatting with others. A few sat quietly waiting.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning, everyone! I want us to settle our hearts and minds while listening to this music."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The Holy Bible, New International Version (large print edition); The United Methodist Hymnal; The Faith We Sing.

What musical instruments were played?

Piano only. There is an organ in the church as well but it remained silent.

Did anything distract you?

The off-key singing of a few in the congregation was painful to listen to.

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

The worship was a mixture of hymns I was unfamiliar with, such as the spiritual "Every Time I Feel the Spirit" (which is very pretty incidentally) and more contemporary choruses such as "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace."

Exactly how long was the sermon?

10 minutes.

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

10 – The pastor's talk was crisp, clean, thoughtful, easy to understand, straightforward and to the point.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The pastor related a modern-day version of the parable of the sower, telling us about a woman who had never gardened before seeking advice from her neighbor as to how she might grow a magnificent garden or, metaphorically speaking, how she might find happiness. The neighbor told her all about seeds (God's plan), soil (condition of our soul), weeding and tilling (scuttling of old ideas), fertilizer (unpleasant, like illness, death, job loss, etc., but a gift if we integrate it into the soil), worms to aerate the soil (the wind and freshness of the Holy Spirit). God sends us mentors to help us strive for a great life rather than a mediocre one.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The thoughtfulness of the sermon was like being in heaven. The story and the telling of it were wonderfully imaginative while preserving and illuminating the original text it was based upon.

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

Like I said, the off-key crooning of some of the congregation was painful to endure.

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

No need to look lost here. Many people greeted us in the pew after the service. We went for coffee, where we were greeted by a number of people and engaged in pleasant conversation. They made us feel special!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

The coffee I had was good and hot. Tea and juice and cake were also available but I had none of these.

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

10 – If I lived in the area I would certainly attend this church again and again.

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


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

Well, this is more than seven days later and sermon is still fresh in my mind.

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