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263: St Mark's Cathedral, Seattle, Washington, USA
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St Mark's, Seattle
Mystery Worshipper: Peregrine.
The church: St Mark's Cathedral, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA).
The building: Unattractive and confusing contemporary exterior, a combination of stone, wood and brick. Interior was surprisingly light, airy and attractive with a fascinating glass and steel reredos.
The neighbourhood: Set in residential area called Capitol Hill.
The cast: Assisting Bishop Sanford Z.K. Hampton, Celebrant and Preacher. The Very Rev. Robert Taylor, Dean.
What was the name of the service?
The Feast of All Saints with Holy Baptism.

How full was the building?
Pleasantly full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A gentlemanly usher greeted me with a friendly "Good morning!" An equally pleasant woman handed me the service booklet.

Was your pew comfortable?
Comfortable enough, considering there were no cushions.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Gentle murmur of conversation punctuated by the occasional squeals from the soon-to-be-baptized.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
After the prelude the Dean said, "Welcome to this service celebrating the Feast of all Saints," and continued by introducing the guest presider and preacher.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The very complete service booklet was augmented by the Hymnal 1980.

What musical instruments were played?
An impressive Flentrop organ, and a trumpet.

Did anything distract you?
Two women seated in different rows in front of me, each swigging away on bottled water!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A reverent melange of ages, sexes, apparently different social and financial circumstances, sitting, standing, and kneeling during the Great Thanksgiving lets one know that freedom in worship is valued here. The firm and clearly audible responses by parents and godparents during the baptismal vows (and a resounding "We will!" from the congregation) made this visitor think they really meant it.

St Mark's, Seattle

Exactly how long was the sermon?
16 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Bishop Hampton is a relaxed and "homey" preacher with a knack for posing the central question of the day, "What does the Christian faith mean to you?"

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He asked the listeners to frame the Christian faith for a bumper sticker. A simple question, but one with dozens of answers, I suspect.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The stirring opening hymn ("For All the Saints"), sung by the choir with goosebumpy kettledrummy rumbling on the final verse.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Wondering how it was possible that in such misty-moisty Seattle weather folks could be so dry that they couldn't leave the water bottles in their handbags during worship.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The bishop and other clergy greeted people, shook hands, exchanged pleasantries. The Dean introduced me to a nice woman who took me to a private telephone to call a taxi. She also told me about their intentional incorporation of newcomers.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The taxi came too soon for me to make it to the coffee hour (besides, there was this wonderful gift shop that had to be investigated).

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9. I think one could find a niche in this congregation very quickly.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I'm almost always glad to be a Christian, but to be in an Episcopal church on this feast day has got to be almost as good as it gets.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The bishopÕs kiss on each tiny head as he anointed the newly-baptized.

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