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134: St Paul's, Brunswick, Maine, USA
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St Paul's Church, Brunswick, Maine
Mystery Worshipper: Commander.
The church: St Paul's, Brunswick, Maine, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: A wooden "neo-Gothic" jewel dating from the 19th century.
The neighbourhood: Next door to St John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church, in the charming town of Brunswick (home of Bowdoin College and that "awful woman", Harriet Beecher Stowe, as my grandmother from Georgia would say).
The cast: Rev. Daniel Warren, Rector. The celebrant and preacher was Rt Rev. Chilton Knudsen, Bishop of Maine.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist, Baptism and Rite 13.

How full was the building?
Bulging at the seams – they were all there to see their bishop.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
They gave me a program. During the peace, the ladies in front of us complimented our singing. The congregation was most chatty.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, with a nice cushion.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Definitely loud for an Episcopal parish – they were downright noisy. Interestingly, the rector announced later in the service that they would start a trial of observing silence prior to the service for a few Sundays. Good idea, that!

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Blessed be God..."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Book of Common Prayer (1979), a service sheet for "Rite 13", and the 1982 Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
Once the service began, the folks shut up and were good Episcopalians.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The congregation were enthusiastic and good singers! I would call them "broad church" – good liturgist with no pretensions. Rather what one would expect from New Englanders. For example, they did pass the peace warmly, but no one left their pew.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10. How very much she loves Jesus! No pompous bishop here with those long vowels – she says "God" not "Gaaawood". Her presentation was simple, with no dramatics, and from the heart.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was based on one of Jesus' many condemnations of Pharisees and scribes. The message of Jesus to his people is, "Do what they say, not what they do. Let your words inform your behavior." Often she exclaimed: "Oh Jesus, sometimes you are so hard!" She then explained what Rite 13 was about – a liturgy to bless 13 year olds and their parents. As the bishop explained it, the 13 year olds were embarking on a journey to adulthood and confirmation. She ended the sermon with a phrase I loved, "Oh Jesus, what a Saviour to wrap a life around."

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The bishop's sermon, I believe.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The noisy pre-service stuff.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
They identify visitors at the coffee hour by asking them to use red coffee mugs. It works. Yankees are such nice folks!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Coffee, etc.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Definitely yes, ready to follow that bishop to heaven!

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