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  1241: Christ Church, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Christ Church, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Mystery Worshipper: Misericord.
The church: Christ Church, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: This pleasant, Spanish mission-style building probably dates from the 1970s or 80s. White-painted brick and stucco, with the ubiquitous clay-tile-look roof and low bell tower, fits this suburban neighborhood perfectly. The fellowship hall is a cloister-style courtyard patio with plantings and fountain. Very pleasant and functional.
The church: Christ Church appears to be a broad church, liberal minded, inclusive parish. The neighborhood is older (for Las Vegas) and nicely mixed in ethnicity and age.
The neighborhood: Between the old downtown (and glitter gulch) of Las Vegas and the campus of the University of Nevada, the neighborhood is typified by one-story 60s ranch houses and apartment buildings. Strip retail development lines the major streets. Diagonally across the street is St Anne's Roman Catholic Church. The Vegas strip is about a mile west.
The cast: Dale Augustin, Mary Bredlau and Everett Hall, clergy; and Kathi Colman, director of music.
The date & time: May 28, 2006, 10:30 a.m.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist, Rite II.

How full was the building?
Pretty full, maybe 150 in the pews.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
An usher said good morning, handing me a service sheet.

Was your pew comfortable?
Standard wood pew with drop down kneeler. It was fine. Nice dark wood matching the open beam wood ceiling.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was pretty quiet as people were gathering. Some were praying, but most of the congregation were quietly preparing for worship. There were no children visible, as they have child care during this service.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
The piano prelude ended, followed by a silence. At length, the presiding minister said: "I guess I'm up now. Good morning. Will those visiting us their first time please stand?"

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

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano, but not together.

Did anything distract you?
I cast about for annoying things or even things seeming peculiar, but found nothing striking. I guess the choir had more vibrato than I would like. The ceiling fans pushed the air down, rather than up (which would be expected in this climate) but these things seem really paltry. Okay, I prefer more traditionally Anglican choral music. In short, there was not much distracting.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was an interesting mix of contemporary music, and smells and bells. The processions were good. The Gospel was read from the center aisle. It turned out to be more high-church than I expected, especially after the folksy opening comments.

Christ Church, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Rev. Hall's style was a bit monotonous, but his content was fine.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Is God personal to us? He used the example of the faith of St Paul during the storm he encountered at sea on his journey to Rome. He told us: "We must not fix our gaze on the shifting waters immediately around us, but look toward the fixed and eternal, i.e. God present in our lives." Good point.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The high point for me was when the children joined us from their separate atrium care, just before communion. The energy level jumped a notch, while they were perfectly behaved.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The service was just fine, with the minor things I noted. I was disappointed, though, by what happened when the service was over.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. I went through the handshake line with the clergy, and drifted (uninvited) into the courtyard. Beyond a couple of shy smiles and one hello, no one said a thing. I even had to stand with the other newcomers at the beginning of the service, and still no one marked me to talk to following the service. I drifted around the courtyard examining the physical plant. I eventually found coffee (still no greeting) and sat drinking it on a garden wall in the courtyard. I was left to enjoy the pleasant surroundings in solitude. Oh well.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I snagged some coffee and powdered white in a styro cup. Didn't feel like taking any edibles with no invitation, also there was a woman collecting money for something. I don't think it was for the coffee hour, but I wasn't sure, so I didn't feel free to partake too much.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – I guess it would work itself out to be a friendly place, given time. Everyone seemed to be engaged with their usual chums after the service.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Sure. Worship was very good, the choir competent, the sacraments well celebrated, the sermon pretty good.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I will overlook the aloofness, and remember the rather spontaneous singing of "God Bless America" (it was Memorial Day weekend) after the closing hymn.
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