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495: St Andrew's, St Johnsbury, Vermont, USA
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St Andrew's, St Johnsbury, Vermont, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Ralegh.
The church: St Andrew's, Main Street, St Johnsbury, Vermont, USA.
Denomination: Episcopalian.
The building: A very pretty, two-toned blue wooden church with the steeple alongside the main building. The interior has dark wood panels on the ceiling with white walls. There is a large stained glass window behind the altar and two bright windows at the opposite end of the building. A large round arch painted white with a series of St Andrew's crosses running along the edge separates the nave from the chancel.
The church: The parish was founded in 1876 and the church was dedicated in 1881. Many prominent members of the community have belonged to this church.
The neighbourhood: St Johnsbury is the commercial and administrative center of the northeastern state of Vermont. The church is on Main Street, which is primarily residential, with a number of churches and a few stores. The downtown commercial area is nearby.
The cast: Rev. Jean MacDonald.
What was the name of the service?
8.00am Eucharist, First Sunday in Lent.

How full was the building?
Church was nearly empty. I counted 12 people plus the priest.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
As I arrived, a man who later took up the collection held the door open for me and said, "Good morning".

Was your pew comfortable?
The pew itself was the standard wooden pew, comfortable enough. But the kneeler was an individual cushion which was luxuriously soft.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very quiet. People were praying silently or just waiting for the service to begin. I heard no one talking.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. The service this morning begins with the Great Litany. You'll find this in the insert."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Book of Common Prayer.

What musical instruments were played?
No music at all. There was a beautiful painted pipe organ, but I guess they don't bother with music at this poorly attended early morning service.

Did anything distract you?
At the very end of the service, the priest ran down to the pews and said she had forgotten the announcements. Since no one had any, she sat in the front pew and watched the woman who did the first reading extinguish the candles before following her to the narthex. To me, this was very unusual.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was very formal and staid until the end, when the above-mentioned incident occurred!

Exactly how long was the sermon?
8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The priest read her sermon very effectively. Her voice was rich and animated. She was interesting and to the point.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
She wondered how long Adam and Eve were in Eden before being expelled. She liked to think it was at least a year, so that they had time to realize what they had lost when they were expelled. Their original sin reminds us that our sins are serious and we must be especially conscious of them during Lent.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
To get to the communion rail we had to walk past the organ and the chancel, which emphasized to me how beautiful the church was. I felt privileged to walk almost up to the altar.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I am used to the eucharist being a small round wafer that nearly melts in my mouth. Here the priest actually tore off a piece of leavened bread, which I had some difficulty dealing with. Suddenly it was up against my palate near the back of my throat. I was afraid I would choke on it right at the altar rail. Fortunately I dislodged it before gagging.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
As soon as the service ended, the man in the pew in front of me turned and began to talk about the weather. We chatted for awhile and as I left the priest greeted me and invited me to come again.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No coffee service at all.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – I would like to attend the 10.00am service before passing final judgment. This is not the service I would attend if I lived in the area. Still, I liked what I saw.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. The friendly people seemed to value their community and place of worship.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Nearly choking on the eucharist.
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