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505: St Lucie, Port St Lucie, Florida, USA
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St Lucie, Port St Lucie, Florida
Mystery Worshipper: Apostle to the Gentiles.
The church: St Lucie, Port St Lucie, Florida, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: Contemporary Spanish style, tile roof, large octagonal tower. Fan-shaped interior, capacity around 500.
The church: The congregation was made up of mostly older people, which probably reflects the composition of the area population.
The neighbourhood: On a busy commercial intersection opposite both Lutheran and Methodist churches. Nice middle class homes in the area.
The cast: Fr. Kwal (this is what his name sounded like when he was introduced – I could not find it listed anywhere).
What was the name of the service?
Vigil Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

How full was the building?
About three-quarters full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A slight nod of the head from the usher who opened the door for me.

Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfortable, padded.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet, only hushed conversations.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening and welcome to St Lucie Catholic Church. Today we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
"Today's Missal" from Oregon Catholic Press. This consists of two paperbacks held together in a leatherette cover. One has the mass readings for Advent to Lent, the other musical selections for the entire liturgical year.

What musical instruments were played?
Mostly electronic organ, the organist switching to a grand piano for a couple of selections.

Did anything distract you?
It wasn't really distracting, but it was odd not seeing a crucifix in a Catholic church. There was a simple black cross in front of a piece of fabric which seemed to be hiding a crucifix. After the mass, an usher explained that the crucifix is hidden this way only during the Lenten season.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Pretty much standard Catholic, with the music mostly in a contemporary rather than traditional style. See below for details.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
11 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – He started his sermon with a joke that is not worth repeating. His Asian accent made him just a bit difficult to understand.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Based on the Gospel reading of Jesus giving sight to the blind man (John 9:1-41). We may not be blind, but how well do we see? Spiritual blindness can be worse than physical blindness. The priest also touched on the recent resignation of the Bishop of Palm Beach, after his admission of sexual misconduct 25 years ago. He said we should see the situation with compassion and forgiveness.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Nothing in particular. The interior of the church was, for a simple contemporary building, quite like paradise.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Some questionable musical choices. The responsorial psalm specified by the lectionary for that Sunday was Psalm 23. But for some reason, we sang the song, "Hosea," in place of the psalm, and the fine setting of Psalm 23, "Shepherd Me, O God," at communion. Worse, the singing by the congregation of Malotte's setting of the Lord's Prayer! Leaving aside any judgment on the musical worth of the piece, the fact is it does not have the proper text for use at a Catholic mass.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. I probably could have stayed there until the next mass started without anyone saying anything to me. I finally sought out an usher to ask him about the situation with the crucifix.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
None (it's not usual to have it in US Catholic churches).

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, despite it being rather different from my own church.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Trying hard but not being able to hit the high notes in the Lord's Prayer.
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