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1010: St Andrew's, Tampa, Florida, USA
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St Andrew's, Tampa, Florida, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Pipedreamer.
The church: St Andrew's Episcopal Church, Tampa Florida.
Denomination: Episcopalian Church in the USA.
The building: St Andrew's was built in 1904 in a Mediterranean style, but the first church on the site was built in 1883. It's a smallish church with a pleasant courtyard connecting the church with its parish hall and offices.
The church community: St Andrew's is in Tampa's business district and is therefore a destination church. They have had a good reputation for music for a long time. This is a middle to upper class parish with a very healthy proportion of parishioners in the 20 to 40 age range.
The cast: Rev. Raymond Vince was both celebrant and preacher. Rev. Lewis Tanno, interim rector, was down to preach, but for some reason didn't. As we like to say in our church, he was "modelling vestments." He assisted Fr Vince.
What was the name of the service?
The Holy Eucharist, Rite One, 10.00am Sunday, August 15.

How full was the building?

About three-quarters full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Yes, an usher smiled, said good morning, and handed me a bulletin.

Was your pew comfortable?

It was a standard wooden hard pew which was just fine for the one hour and 15 minutes the service lasted. I'd rather have hard pews than thick cushions that kill sound any day.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Unusually quiet. No one was talking, even once the prelude began.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

The celebrant said, "Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and the Hymnal 1982. The reading and the sung psalm were in the bulletin.

What musical instruments were played?


Did anything distract you?

The gentleman behind me, because I was sure I'd seen him before, so I spent the whole service trying to work out who he was.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

The worship service was formal in style – somewhere between broad and high church. We were celebrating the Feast of the Assumption, so perhaps it felt more Anglo-Catholic than it normally does. This parish alternates between rite one and two, and rite one, with its old-style language, is more formal by its very nature.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

7 – His delivery was on a par with a rite one service. Very clearly delivered and theologically sound, but this reporter would have liked him to shake us up a little and leave us thinking. And I don't mean in a fundamental church way.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Fr Vince preached on the lessons for the Assumption, which included the Gospel reading where Mary is singing the magnificat and the role that Mary played in the life of our Lord. He spoke of how she was the "bearer of God" and compared her joy to Eve's sorrow, and talked of faith and the mystery of faith. Solid Anglo-Catholic stuff.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The clear, clean sound of the choir. I was pleasantly surprised, as there is an interim musician in charge at present. The organist/choirmaster, Michael Hunter, appears to be doing a fine job with them. I especially enjoyed the psalm, which was chanted in plainsong style and accompanied with handbells.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

Having to sing the doxology again. My own church has stopped singing that some time ago.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

People were making their way out to the parish hall for coffee, and I hung around the back reading the inscriptions in the stained glass windows, and then started off in the same direction, still trying to look unsure, until finally a nice man spoke to me and introduced himself. Then the interim rector realised I was a visitor and people were suddenly interested. It seems to be a friendly church.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

It was your typical weak church coffee in a styrofoam cup kinda stuff. But the spread of food more than made up for it! Also, besides the weak coffee, they were offering juice and iced water.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

9 – I have a regular church and also I don't live in Tampa, but if I was looking for a church home, I think I could be very happy here.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. And happy to be Episcopalian too.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The psalm.
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