|58: St Joseph's Catholic Church, Jacksonville, Florida|
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Mystery Worshipper: Sunbeam for God.
The church: St Joseph's Catholic Church, Jacksonville, Florida, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: 'Contemporary Spanish-Mediterranean', with muted tones (except for a burnished copper dome which really really stands out), and a rather spartan interior that doesn't look like any Catholic church I've ever seen.
The neighbourhood: St Joe's is located at the intersections of Old St Augustine, Loretto, Greenland, and Hood Landing roads, aka 'Catholic Corners'. The newest church is located on the southwest corner, the two older churches are on the southeast corner, the school and its chapel are on the northeast corner, and the diocesan offices are on the northwest corner. Can't remember the last time there was an accident there, either...
The cast: The Most Reverend John J. Snyder, Bishop of the Diocese of St Augustine.
What was the name of the service?
The Solemn Rite of Dedication. They were officially opening the church up for business, though they'd been conducting services there for a few weeks prior.
How full was the building?
Very full, nearly packed to the rafters. The building seats 2,200, and I imagine there were at least 2,000 there.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was welcomed twice, as we had to empty the church before the dedication. As we were standing outside the church waiting for the bishop, I had a friendly chat with the people around me.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, very. It was cushioned and very new, which probably made the difference.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The crowd was obviously excited. This church has been four years in the making. Combine that with a temperature soaring to 90F (32C, I think) and 2,000 people crammed into a courtyard waiting to get back into the church. There was no way it could be quiet or reverential.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
'The grace and peace of God be with all of you in this holy church.'
What books did the congregation use during the service?
'Breaking Bread', which I guess is a contemporary version of 'Today's Missal', and the service program.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, piano, guitar, drums, flute, trumpet and timpani.
Did anything distract you?
The humidity (don't think the cooling system was working quite right), the screaming babies whose parents refused to take them to the cry room, and the smell of the barbecue drifting inside towards the last part of the service (I'd had no breakfast or lunch, and the service didn't start till noon!).
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Charismatic Catholic. The music was contemporary, though dressed up with the organ, trumpets, and timpani. The congregation was using hand gestures during the responses, which always throws me, and very few made the signs of the cross (head, lips, heart) at the Gospel reading.