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91: St Mark's, Durango, Colorado
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St Mark's, Durango, Colorado
Mystery Worshipper: Lucy Locket.
The church: St Mark's, Durango, Colorado, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church USA.
The building: A kind of "mini-Gothic" stone exterior with a very abbreviated bell tower. A lovely, large stained glass window was clearly visible from the main street. Inside, there were Gothic-type arches over the chancel and all of the stained glass was very pleasing.
The neighbourhood: Appeared to be an upper-middle-class residential neighborhood and was very quiet. The street had a nice esplanade.
The cast: Rev Andrew A. Cooley.
What was the name of the service?
The Holy Eucharist, Rite II, 8 Pentecost.

How full was the building?
Fairly full. There were a few sparsely populated pews at the front.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I arrived about 10 minutes before the service began. Fr Andrew himself was standing out on the sidewalk in front of the church, dressed in his white alb, rope girdle, and stole, and he welcomed me most heartily with a handshake and polite, brief conversation.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. Standard wood pew with comfortable cushion.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Mostly quiet with occasional bursts of activity from small children and a bit of chatter as people arrived.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A service leaflet that reprinted much of the service from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and The Hymnal 1982 (ECUSA).

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano.

Did anything distract you?
Teenagers sitting behind me singing loudly off-key and giggling during the service, and rather more child-related noise than I am accustomed to, even at a Rite II Family Service.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was warm and family-like. I wouldn't say the whole experience was happy-clappy, but the congregation did get that way during the closing hymn, "God Has Spoken".

Exactly how long was the sermon?
18 minutes plus an extra two minutes at the end for a closing prayer. Toward the end, a child in one of the front pews yawned and sighed so loudly that everyone in the church heard it, and Fr Andrew said, "OK, time to end the sermon," which drew a laugh. He then went on for a few more minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
About a 7. He delivered the entire sermon from the chancel steps without referring to any notes whatsoever.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It is wrong for us, in righteous indignation, to attack what we think is not within the Kingdom of God. Humans are not in a position to judge what is or is not within the Kingdom of God. Surprisingly good things can come out of what appears to us to be evil.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The obvious good feeling that the congregants had for each other. It was like attending the idealized family celebration, at which everyone is happy to be there, eveyone loves one another, and no one is fighting! The exchange of the peace took a while because most people left their pews and walked around to greet each other. Fr Andrew made lots of family-type announcements and called up those having birthdays and anniversaries to be prayed over.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Visitors were required to stand and introduce themselves. I thought only Baptists did that.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I walked all the way around the nave to see the Stations of the Cross and lingered at the back of the church, without any result. As I left, I asked Fr Andrew where the coffee was and he directed me to the hall. I hung around for one cup of coffee and looked at the bake sale items but was left alone. Finally, as I was leaving, a man who was just coming in made a point of welcoming me, and after I left the building, a woman outside stopped me and chatted for a while.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The coffee itself was good. A tray of cold-cuts was available, in addition to the bake sale.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
Maybe a 6. The service lasted over an hour and a half, and some of the announcements made were highly personal. I'm not sure I would really want everyone at my church to know all of my personal business.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
During his announcements, Fr Andrew looked around the nave, singled out a woman by name, and asked her if she had found a job and a place to live yet. I sure wouldn't want anyone to do that to me, but she didn't appear to be bothered by it and just answered, so that all could hear, that she had found both just the day before. Everybody clapped. I can't help wondering what would have happened if she had said, "No, can anyone put me up for the night and let me work for food?" I guess Fr Andrew already knew the answer before he asked the question.
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