|253: Pacific Palisades Presbyterian, Pacific Palisades, California, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Calvinist Klein.
The church: Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church, Pacific Palisades, California, USA.
Denomination: Presbyterian Church (USA).
The building: A stunner. Completed just last year, this beautiful post-modern study in California blonde, dove grey and peachy-pink seems to coordinate perfectly with the mostly California blonde, dove grey and peachy-pink congregants. The 62-foot bell tower includes stones from Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral and John Calvin Church in Geneva. The focal point of the sanctuary is a large, unfinished Celtic cross (see below) carved into the wall to allow sunlight to stream through. According to the church's website, it represents that "the work of the cross is far from finished. It is a lifetime obligation for each of us." I could quibble with the theology behind the statement that the work of the cross isn't finished, but perhaps I'm reading too much into the symbolism. Overall, the building is an argument-ending rejoinder to those who say "they don't build 'em like they used to."
The neighbourhood: Located in Pacific Palisades, a ritzy suburb of Los Angeles, the church is situated about a mile from the ocean on (no kidding) Sunset Boulevard, sandwiched next to a handsome Lutheran church and a synagogue.
The cast: Dr John Todd. Children's sermon by Rev. Eric Schaefer.
What was the name of the service?
St Andrew's Sunday, 10.15am service.
How full was the building?
Did anyone welcome you personally?
My hand was heartily shaken at the door by two enthusiastic greeters. In addition, the usher's very young son handed me the bulletin with a charmingly adamant "you have to take one of these." But the warmest welcome came from the uniformed Parking Czar who ably sardined cars into the small parking lot.
Was your pew comfortable?
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The congregation gathered in a lovely breezeway to listen to a bagpiper playing in honor of St Andrew's Sunday.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A printed Order of Worship and the Presbyterian Hymnal. The pew Bible was the New Revised Standard Version.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, bagpipe and drums.
Did anything distract you?
In the middle of the quite moving baptism of two teenage boys and their three-year-old sister, a cell phone shattered the mood.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Appropriate Scottish Presbyterian decorum with just a smidge of Hollywood glitz. During the sermon, the pastor worked the room gracefully rather than chaining himself to the pulpit. He also stopped the organist in the middle of a hymn to kiddingly chastise the congregation for not singing loudly enough.