|243: Christ Church of the Ascension, Paradise Valley, Arizona, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Lucy Locket.
The church: Christ Church of the Ascension, Paradise Valley, Arizona, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church USA.
The building: Nouveau mission style, a rather bland and uninteresting whitewashed structure with a bland and uninteresting interior. Unfortunately, both the architecture and the dressings of the liturgical space scream 1970s. The sterility of the latter was slightly alleviated by the incorporation of American Indian symbols, but the overall effect was almost condescending, as if the mighty rich white people were patting themselves on the back for having thrown a bone to their red brothers and sisters. The metal framework at the entrance to the chancel was a sincere attempt to integrate a worthwhile feature by suggesting a rood screen, but sadly, it failed too.
The neighbourhood: Paradise Valley is a town attached to Phoenix, where all the rich people live. The church is in a rich neighborhood. Only a mile or two down the road is the famous Arizona Biltmore Spa, which is surrounded by the richest place of all, Biltmore Estates, which is home to celebrities including Alice Cooper, the original shock rocker.
The cast: The celebrant and preacher was Rev. William M. North, Jr., Associate Rector.
What was the name of the service?
The Holy Eucharist: Rite II.
How full was the building?
About a third full. I guess around 200 people were there.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes indeed. The church has a very effective gimmick for identifying visitors the visitor cards in the pew racks have self-adhesive badges attached to them. The visitor fills in his name, tears off and applies the badge, and immediately sticks out like a sore thumb. It is pretty hard to ignore someone wearing a badge that says "Visitor".
Was your pew comfortable?
Standard, adequate pew cushion.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Considerable settling-in activity and whispering, but not to a disturbing degree.
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?
Service leaflet, The Book of Common Prayer 1979, The Hymnal 1982.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
Alas, the accents of bright green paint on the dark wood altar and the creepy-lacey-curtain-thingey on the wall behind the altar (see photo) were most distracting to me.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was a dignified and quite standard Rite II service.