|581: Our Lady of the Rosary, Lexington, North Carolina, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Friar Tuck.
The church: Our Lady of the Rosary, Lexington, North Carolina, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: The small building dates from the sixties and its exterior is somewhat plain. It is a sterling example of how Roman Catholic architecture went amiss after Vatican II. It is, however, a functional building, containing nave and fellowship hall, with another annex down the street. Inside is an interesting mix of the traditional and the modern: Plenty of statues; electric votive lights; a celtic cross on one wall and the main crucifix on the back of the nave.
The church: A self-professed working class, blue-collar community with a good mix of english and spanish speaking folk.
The neighbourhood: Our Lady of the Rosary is on main street. It's only a few steps from churches of most major denominations, a Dairy Queen, and more than enough barbecue shanties to satisfy anyone in this, the barbecue capital of the world.
The cast: Rev. Albert J. Gondek, O.S.F.S The Oblates of St. Francis De Sales.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
My girlfriend and I sat down ten minutes before the start of the service in a remarkably empty church. Just before mass began, a huge swell of the faithful arrived and filled the nave with an air of blissful sanctity.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No welcome. No "Glad you are here." The priest, having finished a conversation with someone else, walked past us and didn't say a word.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was reasonably comfortable. The kneelers were padded.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet but very laid back; there were just a few conversations before the crowds arrived. Then the music leader came to the microphone, told us the hymn number and the music began. It was only when we began to sing the same hymn for a second time that I realized that the first had been just the practice. The organist was entranced. She completely ignored Fr. Albert's glances directing her to stop. Father just smiled.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good Morning", or something to that effect.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A Missal published in Washington State.
What musical instruments were played?
The piano and a violin.
Did anything distract you?
During the consecration the quiet, poised altar girl rang the huge sanctus bells with the vigor of a cowboy ringing the bell to call the cows home.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I love worship and have experienced many memorable moments in church, but this was one of the more humorous services I've been to. The worship was low key Roman Catholic in style rather void of sacredness and with a comfortable family atmosphere. Fr. Albert has an interesting liturgical style: On exclaiming, "The Lord be with you," he pointed both index fingers straight ahead at the congregation, then moved them outwards in a gesture that would have been more at home in a disco than a church. We responded, "And also with you," to which he actually replied, "Thanks a lot!"
Exactly how long was the sermon?
About 10 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 He snorted during the sermon. He may have been laughing.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
We all make mistakes.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Despite their loud volume, the way the bells rang out when we sang of the mysteries of faith. It was the most heartfelt, warm moment of the service.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The invitation to communion. "Come forward together: Husbands; wives; children; boyfriends; girlfriends; whoever..." He wanted family and friends to receive together and I suppose he was trying to be welcoming. It just sounded rather flippant and casual.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No one spoke to us, so we left to go and have lunch.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
We didn't stay. To heck with coffee bring on the barbeque!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 If it was the only option then sure. I would visit other nearby parishes first.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Of course. Despite the irregularities and peculiarities I suspect that, once you became part of the group, it would be welcoming. Some churches are like this you have to make yourself known before anyone gets to know you.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?