|284: St Thomas the Apostle, Hollywood, California|
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Mystery Worshipper: Mr Kipling.
The church: St Thomas the Apostle, Hollywood, California.
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The building: Built in 1930. Fairly plain on the outside, but very ornately decorated inside, including stations of the cross around the walls and a splendid reredos depicting the risen Christ behind the altar.
The neighbourhood: Well-heeled area close to Beverly Hills with tall palm trees lining the streets.
The cast: Rev. Bud Ruby, celebrant and preacher, assited by Rev. Harold Anderson.
What was the name of the service?
The Holy Eucharist.
How full was the building?
Full almost to capacity, nearly all men.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A besuited gentleman said "good morning" in hushed tones as he handed me the service sheet.
Was your pew comfortable?
Can't say I noticed, so I suppose it must have been.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The organ was playing Chorale No 1 in E Major by César Franck. By and large, a quiet prayerful atmosphere, apart from a guy with a bottle of Dr Pepper a few rows in front of me who seemed to trying to strike up conversation with just about everybody.
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?
Prayer Book and hymnal. There was also a sheet to guide you through the service and the day's readings were on a separate sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
The person next to me seemed to be taking no part in the service at all. It was also quite strange hearing familiar hymns sung in American accents.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Traditional anglo-catholic: vestments, candles, incense the full works.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Very good style of delivery that was humourous and thought-provoking.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
How Gideon was called by God; how Jesus called the fisherman; and our own ability or inability to recognise God in everyday situations.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The organ, the choir, the dignified ceremony and the prayerful atmosphere.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The Freddie Mercury lookalike who seemed to be eyeing me up.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I remained hanging around feeling lost. There was another person obviously there for the first time who was also looking lost. Several people approached him. He had much shorter hair than mine and an earring.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Pretty good proper coffee, but served with "non-dairy creamer", so I took mine black. An assortment of nibbles were on offer as well.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. I found the worship uplifting and the sermon gave me plenty to think about.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Tough one this, but I have to be honest and say how out of place I felt as a single heterosexual man in a congregation that was predominantly gay.