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837: Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Savannah, Georgia, USA
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Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Savannah, Georgia, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Monastery Hood.
The church: Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Savannah, Georgia, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: A gleaming, white, Gothic revival-styled edifice, with signature twin spires soaring to the heavens. The interior is magnificent, with beautiful stained glass windows, marble aisles, baptismal font, and high altar. The murals are splendid, and the stations of the cross are huge, 3D tableaux. The choir loft is to the rear of the sanctuary and is dominated by a very large rose window dedicated to St. Cecilia (patroness of music, I believe). The tourists within the congregation are recognizable by their straining necks and slack-jawed stares!
The church: It serves what appears to be a very diverse population, although I would say that the majority of the parisioners are comfortably well-to-do.
The neighbourhood: The church sits adjacent to one of Savannah's beautifully appointed and world-renowned squares – Lafayette Square. Traffic swirls around the church and although there's free parking on Sundays, trying to find a spot is nigh impossible. My companion and I had to park two blocks away, but the walk was pleasantly tree lined, and the homes were interesting to look at.
The cast: The Most Rev. J. Kevin Boland, Bishop of Savannah.
What was the name of the service?
Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday).

How full was the building?
I would say about one-half to three-quarters full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The earlier mass celebrated first communion, so there was a bit of an overlap. People were streaming out and people were trying to get in, so if there was a greeter, he or she was lost in the kerfuffle. We picked up a bulletin from a table just inside the sanctuary doors.

Was your pew comfortable?
Standard wooden pews, which were neither particulary comfortable nor uncomfortable. Some padding would have been welcomed, though. The kneelers were on the narrow side, with stingy padding. They were covered with a brown naugahyde.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
We found out that today a whole bunch of deacons were being ordained into the permanent diaconate, so there was an air of expectancy. It was a little different, I guess, from a regular mass. Other than that, the atmosphere was quiet and reverential.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. Welcome to the Cathedral of St John the Baptist." These words were uttered by the cantor.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A couple of pew rack books: a missal and a hymnal. Plus the bulletin, which informed us of hymns we would be singing, etc.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
The only distraction was the sheer magnificence of the interior of the church. It was easy to get pulled out of concentration as I found myself appreciating the beauty surrounding me.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Apart from the ordination of the deacons, this was a fairly standard Catholic mass, with the usual bells and smells.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Neither I nor my companion were wearing timepieces, but I'd say it was not longer than 10 or 12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Bishop Boland had a pleasant delivery, was very personable, and had quite a sense of humor. He referred to the procession of deacons to be ordained (they were accompanied by their respective spouses) and assured us that the Catholic Church had not relaxed its celibacy requirements for priests! He had a soft Irish accent, but one had to listen closely because the sound system tended to reverberate somewhat.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Basically about Jesus as our Good Shepherd, but he morphed into explaining the duties and responsibilities of the diaconate, and the lifetime commitment therein.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sheer beauty of the church.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
One thing which really ticked me off was when the choir was singing the gloria, the cantor placed her finger over her lips to indicate that we weren't to sing at that particular point. The congregation only got to sing the chorus, "Glory to God in the highest..." I wondered what on earth could be wrong with us all singing the whole thing, and it felt like we were children being reprimanded and told to "hush"!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Well, not knowing beforehand about the ordination of the deacons, my companion and I had to leave right after receiving the eucharist (a habit I particulary dislike when I have observed others doing the same), but time constraints prevented us from staying. Therefore, we just slipped out and there was no one to talk to afterwards.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I'm sure there would have been some sort of celebratory function taking place after the mass and ordination, but we had to be well on our way.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – I think I would choose a much, much smaller church if I lived here. Still, I would probably pay a visit to the cathedral now and again just to get another glimpse of the beauty of the place.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Oh yes, indeed.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
That cantor's finger pressing her lips together.
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