|135: St John's, Naples, Florida, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Fabian Stedman.
The church: St John's, Naples, Florida, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: Modern, constructed in Spanish mission style.
The neighbourhood: Wealthy neighbourhood, with a large percentage of seasonal residents who migrate to Florida for the winter.
The cast: Rev. William E. O'Connell, Rector.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist, Rite II.
How full was the building?
Comfortably full. There were a few empty spaces, but any more people would have required uncomfortable packing of people in the pews.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were handed a bulletin when we arrived, and were strongly encouraged to take our children to the Sunday School which was being run during the service. When we sat down, a Sunday School teacher came over and dragged our children away. During the announcement period, visitors were invited to stand up, introduce themselves, and say where they were from. Four people did so. The congregation applauded and was very welcoming.
Was your pew comfortable?
Basic wooden pew. I am used to this sort of pew in my home church, so it was comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
About half the choir was milling around the church door before the service. They were too busy talking among themselves to greet anyone, and were a bit of an obstacle to people arriving. Only one of the church's double doors was open, which made it even harder to get in. Once inside the church, the organ prelude was being played loudly enough to drown out everyone's conversations.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Hail to the Lord's Anointed" the first line of the first hymn.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The 1979 ECUSA Book of Common Prayer and the 1982 Hymnal.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and three church bells, cast and hung dead for Spanish-style random chiming. They were tuned to produce a major third chord (that is, the bells were the first, third and fifth notes of the diatonic scale). A rather pleasing effect. The tenor bell weighed approximately 3cwt.
Did anything distract you?
Wondering how our children were getting along.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Definitely happy clappy. At one point the Rector admonished the congregation that it was inappropriate to clap after the anthem.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6. (The sermon was recorded and put up in Real Audio on the church's website.)
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
What priority do we give to God? The preacher finished by reading a poem "Twas the Night Before Jesus Came". This was written from the point of view of someone whose name was not found in the Book of Life. This was the strongest whiff of brimstone that I have ever encountered in an Anglican church.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The friendliness of the congregation.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The kidnapping of our children.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Two people came to talk with us. I was invited to join the choir!
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
We had to leave immediately following the service.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8. The warmth and friendliness of the congregation would make me want to have this as my regular church. Even though they kidnapped our children, they meant well, and just wanted them to participate in what was a very good Sunday School programme.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, because part of being a Christian is being part of a community.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The congregation was warm, welcoming and friendly. This is what a Christian community should be.