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337: St Paul's, Spring Valley, New York
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St Paul's, Spring Valley, New York
Mystery Worshipper: Preacher's Kidd.
The church: St Paul's, Spring Valley, New York.
Denomination: Episcopal.
The building: A typical American white board-and-batten country church. Quite small, but they have a building fund up and running.
The church: St Paul's is a predominately black parish. Other than us, there were perhaps a dozen other whites in the congregation.
The neighbourhood: This is a very diverse neighborhood. The Glatt Wok restaurant shared a shopping center with a place called Tu Casa, and Hassidic men in black walked past Muslim women in scarves. There was a Coptic church across the street from a Thai restaurant. You want it? This is the place to find it!
The cast: Rev. Mary Adebonojo.
What was the name of the service?
Pentecost 2, Holy Eucharist Rite II, and Church School Graduation.

How full was the building?
When we arrived, the church was about a third full, but filled rapidly. After the processional, the ushers put chairs down both sides of the center aisle. The gentleman sitting next to me said this was not unusual.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were given a bulletin and a warm smile when we arrived. During the peace, a gentleman asked if we were local and told us, "this is a wonderful parish".

Was your pew comfortable?
Standard "old time" pews – comfortable, with plenty of leg room.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The narthex is tiny, so the church opens almost directly into the street. It was raining stair rods, so was a bit noisy, but still reverential.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to St Paul's. Our service begins on page 355 of the Prayer Book."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Book of Common Prayer, the 1982 Hymnal, and "Lift Every Voice and Sing", an African-American hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?
An organ, and the JAMCCAR Youth Band – a percussion group.

Did anything distract you?
The church is not air-conditioned, so the doors and windows had to be kept open. As a result, there was a good deal of street noise, magnified by the pounding rain. There was a rash of sirens and then the power went off. Without a word, two ofthe acolytes stood, reverenced the altar, and brought the torches to either side of the lector so he could read. The rest of us soldiered on, singing a capella, holding our hymnals high to catch the light from the door.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Since this a not a "normal" service, it's a bit hard to tell, but I'd say it is probably pretty upbeat. At the end of the Sunday school awards (they have a large group of kids) we sang the Sunday school song, which is a modern version of "Go Down, Moses". One of the acolytes – a young lady named Christine, I think – sang the first verse in the loveliest voice I have ever heard. We then went into a chorus of "Pharaoh, Pharaoh", complete with arm gestures. The last lines of the song were: "I held my rod and cleared my throat / And Pharaoh's army did the dead man's float." Great fun!

Exactly how long was the sermon?
It is their custom the have the graduating seniors talk about their life at St Paul's and their plans for the future. There were three, and it lasted about 15 minutes, total.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Each of the graduates (two young men and a young lady) were very good. Clear-spoken, articulate, devout, humorous, and college-bound. If these kids are our future, we are in good hands!

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The entire service (which lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes!) was wonderful. The prayers of the people were read by different folks scattered in the congregation. It was marvelous to hear accents from the UK, the Caribbean Islands and various African nations praying together for "all races and nations". I think this place, this service, reflected the full beauty of the Anglican community.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Other than the rain and outside noise, nothing at all.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people shook our hands and welcomed us, asking where we were from, and inviting us to join them for coffee.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Unfortunately, we had a 250-mile trip ahead of us, so we had to bolt.

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?
150%! What a great group of people! There was a great deal of fun going on, but when it came time for the communion service, total reverence prevailed.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Just one thing? Yeesh! The children, I think. All of them were a credit to their parents and their congregation.
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