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1143: Christ Episcopal, East Tawas, Michigan, USA
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Christ Episcopal, East Tawas, Michigan, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Misericord.
The church: Christ Episcopal, East Tawas, Michigan, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: A small-town frame church, probably from around 1900, with some modern additions seemingly from the late 1970s and on. An elevator for the disabled can be found just inside the entry. The inside, too, is mostly the expected combination of older elements in the worship space with some updates (including rest rooms) in the ancilliary areas. Of course, what may seem not to work so well visually and stylistically can also seem friendly and unpretentious.
The church: Typically I sneak away from my home parish during the summer months, which is also a time when other churches' attendance and ceremonial tend to take holiday. This means I may not be getting an accurate picture of the mystery-worshipped place. That said, I would guess this congregation has a base of year-round residents, but is small and not overburdened with debt. There was a nice mix of older and younger folks, but I didn't see many children. Either child care is provided or they were out playing.
The neighborhood: East Tawas, a small town with a population of about 3000, is one of a string of beach-side communities with which Michigan is fringed. Possibly only Ontario, Canada is so blessed by fresh-water shoreline and its recreational possibilities. The church sits near the intersection of the main street and the shoreline route, in the older part of town. Pretty, cottage-like older homes line the leafy blocks. The business district is a short walk away, as is Lake Huron. This could be many people's idea of heaven.
The cast: The Rev. G. John MacDonald was the celebrant. Peter Hanoian played the organ, and Sharon Huitema served as lay minister.
The date & time: July 24, 2005, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
10.00am Eucharist, Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

How full was the building?
About one-third full, maybe 35 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, an usher handed me a service sheet and said good morning.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, nice old wood pews.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People were visiting rather loudly. The space was small and open, so everyone could easily overhear each other's conversations.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good Morning. Our opening hymn is No. 410."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
1982 Hymnal and Book of Common Prayer.

What musical instruments were played?
An electronic organ.

Did anything distract you?
The musical accompaniment was more of a distraction than a support. Being it was summer, their regular organist might have been on vacation.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Worship was a bit spare although pleasant and heartfelt. During the penitential rite Father MacDonald, suffering in the abnormally high heat and humidity, good-naturedly doffed his chasuble and stole. The musical portions of the service were kept to a bare minimum (spoken psalm, creed and Lord's Prayer, no fraction anthem).

Exactly how long was the sermon?
21 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – Father spoke affably and had done his preparation, but he seemed a bit rambling to me.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Father started with the parable of the mustard seed, with a segue into realizing our potential through such things as meditation and faith. People who are led by the spirit of God can achieve great things. He then became very anecdotal, even to the point of sounding a little bit boastful of the accomplishments of his own son in architecture – although this was certainly an example of achieving great things, I guess.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Nothing other than receiving the sacrament.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
If the other place is just a bit humdrum rather than truly hellish, that might have been where I was. Well, maybe thatís a little harsh. Nothing made that bad an impression, but nothing excited me either.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
More smiles and good mornings, but nothing further.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none. I filed out with everyone else.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – If I lived here, Iíd probably look around a bit more.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Oh, I suppose so.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Hearing Father sermonize about his son, who is apparently acclaimed as the next Frank Lloyd Wright and who also possesses the faith of a saint. It made me evaluate my own architectural career and achievements. Iím not sure this was the intended purpose of the sermon.
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