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825: Christ Church, Denver, Colorado, USA
Other reports | Comment on this report
Christ Church, Denver, Colorado, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Bach's Office.
The church: Christ Church, Denver, Colorado, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: The exterior of Christ Church is brick, very handsome and with clean lines. Lots of large, clear glass windows, which let in a lot of natural light and a view of green trees. Very soothing. The interior is a medium-sized sanctuary which is very spacious and inviting. The interior brick walls are patterned in an interesting way with some bricks laid short-end out, extending from the wall at regular intervals.
The church: Apparently the congregation is looked upon as pastoral caregivers, and they are identified in that fashion. The pastor even referred to that as a major portion of his sermon.
The neighbourhood: Extremely neat with brick houses, trimmed yards and friendly residents. (We were waiting to get across the street, and a man walked up to us with friendly advice as to how the timing of the light works.)
The cast: The Rector is the Rev. Andrew Kline and he preached the sermon. His assistant was the Rev. Jack Stapleton who read the Gospel and assisted in the communion. There were two lay readers for the other scripture readings.
What was the name of the service?
9:00am eucharist. This information wasn't available in the service as we didn't have bulletins and the service wasn't named on the overhead screen. There are also references to the 10:30 Eucharist, as we stayed for both. (We might have needed two because of our rowdy Shipmeet.)

How full was the building?
The building was over half full, I would say. It didn't feel over-crowded, but there were plenty of people to feel confident with the singing.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
As we were looking slightly lost, searching for the non-existent bulletins, a woman named Mary Jane came over to us and welcomed us very graciously. She tried to find bulletins for us, and also asked where we were from and told us about herself. While we were waiting in a hallway earlier, several people came by, many of them greeted us, a very few looked suspiciously at us as if we might be up to no good !

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were wooden, and very comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was a pleasant buzz of conversation. There were many families with a lot of small children. The children were very well behaved and talked quietly with their parents. Some folks were praying, some were visiting quietly with each other.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
There seemed to be two versions of the Bible: the New Revised Standard Version and the New International Version. They also used the 1982 Book of Common Prayer and a hymnal. The hymns and scriptures were also projected on the overhead, so many people didn't actually use the books.

What musical instruments were played?
Well! My heart was singing at the sight and sound of the Ott tracker organ. The organist (a Mr Tom Beckwith) played it marvelously and also switched with ease to the Roland A-90 keyboard. There was also a Korg keyboard, a spinet piano, a grand piano and a praise band with a drum kit, viola, violin, flute and a horn which I couldn't quite hear or see. A flugelhorn perhaps?

Did anything distract you?
The woman sitting in front of me was wearing an... erm... "unusual" outfit. Her top was pink with red cherries and green leaves printed on. The skirt was sea-foam green with red, yellow and burnt umber pinecones printed on. I kept waiting for the fashion police to show up. Also, the overhead screen was very distracting, as it kept our attention away from the altar. The screen was over to the left, and the altar was in the middle front. All eyes seemed to be worshipping the screen.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was very easy-going. There were several people raising their hands, and many who were quietly worshipping. It seemed that folks are welcomed to worship in whatever way they feel comfortable. Some folks would kneel, some stood and some sat during the prayers.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Exactly 15 minutes long.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The sermon started out with an attention-grabber: "Well, it's been quite a week in Lake Wobegon." He speaks in a folksy way and includes a lot of things for the congregation to laugh at.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The pastor described his week (which had been very rough with Vacation Bible School and other special events) and the fact that he was celebrating the 20th anniversary of his ordination. He then started talking about Saints Peter and Paul, then all of a sudden we were hearing about sheep and shepherds, which was a bit of a quick mental u-turn. I believe he was emphasizing to his congregation the importance of ministering to each other – "all are called to be shepherds".

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
This is obviously a loving congregation. They had all the birthday and anniversary celebrators go to the chancel and had special prayers for them! A true highlight of the service was the postlude: a brilliant toccata with the cantus firmus in the pedal of "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam". Bravo, Mr Beckwith!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was no sound tech. Even though the priest could be understood, the music was not balanced for the No Guilt praise team. I couldn't hear the voice of Mr Beckwith at all, which is unfortunate, since all I could hear was the female voices. I hope they are able to correct this problem soon.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was introduced to another organist who lives nearby. We found we had so much in common that we talked the entire time between the 9.00 and 10.30am services!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I didn't try any of the coffee, as we were getting ready for an Organ Rodeo. The youth were selling doughnuts as a fund-raiser, and they looked very tasty.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – I have often said that if I weren't Methodist, I would join the Episcopal Church. I think this particular church would have to rate a 10 on my list. It's too bad that the church is halfway across the US from where I live.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, indeed! I think the service was lovely, and the people very friendly. I am pleased to be part of the church universal of which Christ Church also belongs.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
This is easy. While kneeling at the Communion rail, to my right was a young family. The father was cradling a two-month old very tiny preemie. The priest who was serving our section of the rail tenderly laid his hands on the baby, praying for him and blessing him. I was in tears when I returned to the pew.
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