|409: Mountain Chapel, Grafton, New York, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Sister Teresa.
The church: Mountain Chapel, Grafton, New York, USA.
The building: A very modest frame structure with aluminum siding and "Home Depot" style accoutrements. The inside was very austere as well. White walls with pine frame windows adorned only with brown lace valances. The altar bore a simple oak cross flanked by the American flag on the left and the Christian flag on the right.
The church: Very close knit, like a family, but also friendly and open to visitors.
The neighbourhood: Beautiful scenery. The church is nestled in the foothills of the Taconic and Berkshire mountains. One could look out from the front of the church across the meadow and see a good view of the Taconic Crest and Petersburg Pass.
The cast: Pastor Walter Knightes.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Practically empty. Apparently a lot of the congregants were traveling this weekend. (October is the time of the much celebrated "fall foliage", where the native deciduous trees turn brilliant red and orange in the leaves before shedding them for the winter.)
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was greeted personally by nearly everyone in attendance. There were fewer than 20 people so it was quite easy to have friendly conversations with all.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, there were seven to eight pews down the center with the aisles on either side. There were also two chairs per row on the outside of each aisle. It would appear to seat 50 to 75 people comfortably.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very informal. The pastor came around and greeted everyone personally. It had the feeling of a family gathering.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, I'd like to welcome everyone here worshipping with us today."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
There was the New American Standard Bible, along with a basic hymnal ("Praise Hymns" was the name, I believe).
What musical instruments were played?
The guitar and tambourine were the only instruments played, and only for a few songs during the "special" music (see below). There was a spinet piano and an organ, but no one there to play them. I assume they are played during services with normal attendance.
Did anything distract you?
The three cute kids in the back were a distraction (appeals to my maternal instinct). There was a brilliant maple tree just out the window and a brief rain shower occurred during the service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
"Quality, not quantity" was the operative phrase here. While it would have been nice to have more folks there (I fear that my anonymity will be lost once the calling card is discovered), the ones who were there seemed very welcoming and sincere in their love for their fellow Christians. The service was most similar to a Baptist or Disciples of Christ church. There was an opening hymn, announcements, offering, personal praise reports and prayer requests, special music, a sermon, communion, and a closing hymn and benediction.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Approximately 14 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 He had the easygoing manner of a family member. In addition to the sermon, I appreciated the emphasis on prayer request and praise reports.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The parable of the sower and the seeds. It focused on how we as Christians are the sowers when it comes to sharing of God's word with others. The soil is the heart of those who hear it. He also spoke of how we should try to help the seed to take root by tilling the soil, removing rocks and thorns where possible.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
One of the congregants played the guitar and his granddaughter played tambourine and sang "Joy joy joy joy down in my heart" (one of those cute kids again!) along with a few other easy songs from Sunday School.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Unfortunately "special music" was the only music played on live instruments. The remainder of the music was "canned". A tape was played of the hymns while we sang along with it. Also we sang "Amazing Grace" twice. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!) But all in all, it was understandable given the low number of congregants in attendance.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It was too small of a church to get lost. It was hard to avoid contact on the way out (not that I was trying to). I had a nice casual conversation with the pastor on my way out, and he invited me to come back soon.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I didn't find any, but I wasn't looking. I saw some cake in the back, but didn't have any.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 Delightful church! If I lived nearby I would definitely attend regularly.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely. It was very homey and I felt as if I were among family.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The welcome feeling of family I experienced, along with the rustic setting of the church.