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610: Jefferson United Methodist, San Antonio, Texas
Other reports | Comment on this report
Jefferson UMC, San Antonio, Texas
Mystery Worshipper: Quidnunc.
The church: Jefferson United Methodist, San Antonio, Texas.
Denomination: United Methodist.
The building: Inside and out, the building has a modern Southwest mission feel about it. The lighting was poor and the woodwork either side of the altar would look more fitting in a bank than a church. However, the main wall behind the altar was redeemed by a wonderful mosaic.
The church: The website lists a lot of programs to serve the church and the community, but I couldn't see any information on these in the church.
The cast: Pastor Bert Clayton and Suzanne Stahl, liturgist.
What was the name of the service?
Christmas Eve 6.00pm service.

How full was the building?
It was about full. The congregation had spread themselves evenly through the building.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The usher greeted me with a cheery "Merry Christmas!" The people in the next pew offered to make room for me when my friend's pew filled up.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were uncushioned wood; ok but not especially comfortable. Unusually for a United Methodist church, there were kneelers but we did not use them during the service.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was a bit chatty. I prefer things to be a little quieter, but it was not so noisy as to send me running from the building.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Merry Christmas!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The United Methodist Hymnal and the RSV Bible.

What musical instruments were played?
An organ and a piano. Their website mentions a kid's bell choir, but sadly they weren't part of this service.

Did anything distract you?
The people behind me were talking and giggling throughout the sermon. I can't say I blame them, but it made it hard to concentrate. The awful woodwork around the altar kept drawing my eyes. The choir was off to the left, hidden around a corner, which also pulled my attention away from the sermon.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was relaxed and homey and felt friendly.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
3 – The preacher kept introducing topics, and then saying, "I'm not going to talk about this."

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Jesus is sweet like a candy cane. No, wait, that was the children's sermon. There were lots of things that he wasn't going to talk about. I never did figure out what he was going to talk about. He announced that he'd decided not to play it safe and deliver the sermon that was probably being delivered in 90 per cent of the churches that night. Unfortunately, but he didn't quite get across what he was aiming for instead.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Singing "Silent Night" by candlelight, with the woman behind me singing a descant. Beside the candles, the only light was from white lights on the two trees and wreaths on either side of the altar.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The pastor singing into the mike. The lighting was also particularly poor: long shadows obscured the faces of the worship leaders.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not much. However it was Christmas Eve – a service that often attracts large numbers of once-a-year churchgoers – and we were with regular members of the congregation. I'd give them the benefit of the doubt and I suspect they'd be more welcoming during the year.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no coffee.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – Nothing jumped out as special. I was told that the preacher is going to be changed. It worth another look-see then.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not particularly.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Walking out of the sanctuary with the candle held high.
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