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737: The Church of the Redeemer, Southfield, Michigan, USA
Other reports | Comment on this report
Mystery Worshipper: Motor City Mole.
The church: The Church of the Redeemer, Southfield, Michigan.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: A 1950s red-brick, faux colonial building with a white steeple, which is indistinguishable from nearly every other mainline Protestant building built after the second world war.
The church: It is only one of two 1928 USA Prayer Book parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.
The neighbourhood: Built in one of Detroit's older suburbs only one half mile from the city-line, the church's neighborhood is primarily what are called "G.I. Bill" homes – quickly built for returning soldiers.
The cast: Rev. Fr. Trent Fraser, rector and celebrant; Rev. Fr. Robert A. Kerr, preacher.
What was the name of the service?
Sung eucharist and sermon for Ascension Day.

How full was the building?
About half-full. Half the congregants were from three neighboring parishes.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. An usher handed me a bulletin and I was welcomed heartily, having been recognized as a visitor from one of the neighboring parishes.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. A standard issue padded pew with pull-down kneeler.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Reverent with some chattiness as old friends from different parishes arrived.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Let us pray. Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open..."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
1928 Book of Common Prayer (USA), and 1940 Hymnal, along with the King James version of the scriptures printed in the bulletin.

What musical instruments were played?
An organ. A violinist joined in during some of the verses of the hymns.

Did anything distract you?
Being a weekday holy day, it was a joint service between this parish, St John's in Detroit, a Continuing Anglican Church parish, and the choir from the other parish in Southfield. The choir, who were from the only parish that doesn't regularly use the old liturgy and music, butchered the Merbecke setting of the service. The timing was jumpy and very hard to follow, as if they had never seen the music.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Reverent, Prayer Book Anglican with an undercurrent of Catholic devotion and practice. The Rector, Fr. Fraser, was obviously mentored at a full ritual Anglo-Catholic parish, but this parish has not traditionally been as High Church.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
16 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – Although the preacher, Fr. Kerr, is from a decidedly Anglo-Catholic parish, he could have easily passed for a very enthusiastic Baptist preacher, at times gesturing wildly and leaning over the edge of the pulpit to drive home his point.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The ascension of Jesus was a completion of the incarnation. Just as God became man in Jesus Christ by taking on our flesh, the ascension is the taking of our flesh into the Godhead, where the Son intercedes for us to the Father.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The enthusiasm of the preacher.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Probably the frustration of trying to sing along with the choir during the Merbecke communion setting.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A retractable wall in the rear was opened and we followed the flow into the social area. Being recognized by people from my own parish, and knowing a few from the host parish, I did not have to stand alone at all.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea, coffee and juice in plastic cups, as well as cookies.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – If I were not happy at my own parish, this would be a close second.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The preacher's enthusiasm for the topic of the ascension.
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