|218: St Mary's (Mariposa Street), Los Angeles, California|
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Mystery Worshipper: Morpharama.
The church: St Mary's (Mariposa Street), Los Angeles, California.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: The church is a tradition cruciform building with beige stucco and the omnipresent terra cotta tiled roof. There are a number of stained glass windows, the lower of which were added years after the church was originally built. The entire church and parking lot is enclosed by a combination of steel fences and stucco-over-cement wall.
The neighbourhood: St Mary's is located in the heart of old Koreatown in Los Angeles. Koreatown is an area with high crime rates and gang activity, hence the fence around the church. St Mary's is historically a Japanese American church. Prior to World War II, Koreatown was known as Japantown, and its inhabitants were primarily Japanese immigrants. St Mary's was the departure point for downtown Japanese Americans during the internment years of the war. Since many lost their property and businesses during the internment, Japantown became Koreatown. Today, with the affluent Korean Americans living mostly in the suburbs, Koreatown is mainly populated by immigrants from El Salvador. So we have a Japanese church in the middle of Koreatown, where mostly Salvadorans live!
The cast: The celebrant was Rev. H. Alix Evans, assistant rector. Assisting were Rev. Patricia Greig Bennet, interim rector, and Rev. Jim Shiode, deacon assisting.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist, Rite II.
How full was the building?
There were no more than 25 in the pews, a choir of eight, three clergy, two altar servers, an organist and an usher.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The usher handed me a bulletin with a smile but didn't really talk. I exchanged handshakes with two other worshippers during the peace. Most everyone seemed very isolated. Even among what appeared to be family units, the individuals acted like they all came separately.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was wooden, not particularly ergonomic, and being a tall person I did have enough legroom, which can make or break a church experience.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People were mostly quiet and for a good reason, which I found out later. It reminded me of a Roman Catholic church where everyone acts like they don't want to be seen.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"The processional hymn is number 427."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
In the pew was The Book of Common Prayer 1979 and The Hymnal 1982. The bulletin came inside a worship booklet that had the entire service printed on it, presumably to make the daunting task of juggling the books a bit easier on visitors.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano. The psalm was chanted by a choir member whose voice had a particularly beautiful timbre.
Did anything distract you?
The biggest distraction was the number of late arrivals. Several people came in as late as during the sermon. Another distraction was the uncoordinated altar party. The servers didn't always know what they were supposed to be doing, and the clergy had to prompt them often.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
As mentioned earlier, the service was rather somber. At the announcements it was mentioned that the church's former organist and choirmaster had died that morning, hence the mood. The gentleman had held the post for 37 years and was known to all.