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  1291: St Dominic's, Brooklyn, New York

St Dominic's, Brooklyn, New York

Mystery Worshipper: Pax Romana.
The church: St Dominic's, 2001 Bay Parkway, Brooklyn, New York, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: St Dominic's is a modern, one-story red brick church. The church is small, seating perhaps 400 people, but there is a folding partition behind the altar which opens into a gymnasium/auditorium containing folding chairs. This makes the church about twice as big, and gives it a theater-in-the-round effect, with the altar in the middle.
The church: The congregation consists of Italian, English and Spanish speakers, and there are masses in all three languages on the schedule.
The neighborhood: St Dominic's is located in the middle of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York. Bensonhurst was once the largest Italian neighborhood outside of Italy. Italian-Americans still form a large part of the neighborhood population, but the Italians are gradually moving out and people from East Asia and Russia are moving in, giving the area a different ethnic look. This is a quiet, working/middle class neighborhood of tree-lined streets and very well-kept houses.
The cast: The celebrant was Rev. Gaetano J. Sbordone, the pastor of St Dominic's Parish.
The date & time: Sunday, March 19, 2006 at 12.00pm.

What was the name of the service?
Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

How full was the building?
About three-quarters full, including the folding chairs in the auditorium on the other side of the altar.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No. I had to ask where I could find a missalette and hymnal. People were friendly and helpful, though, even smiling.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was a normal wooden pew, in the very back of the church. It was comfortable enough. I was sitting in the last row, and there were no kneelers in our row.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People were coming into the church and finding seats. Two usher ladies in the row ahead of us had to keep getting up to help people find places.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." There were some pre-mass announcements which included the priest telling us we would be using the readings for Year "A" instead of Year "C," which they would normally be using.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Missalette and hymn book, bound together.

What musical instruments were played?
An electric organ. The organist also sang, acting as cantor.

Did anything distract you?
It was too warm in the church. Also, I found my eyes wandering quite a bit to the people sitting on folding chairs in the auditorium.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was a modern Roman Catholic mass, neither happy-clappy nor stiff-upper-lip.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The homily was about baptism and journeying toward the "new water" of Easter. Rev. Sbordone introduced four people who were preparing to be baptized at the Easter Vigil service. He then spent another 10 minutes urging people to pledge money for the annual diocesan appeal and talking about church repairs. There was prayer over the four candidates after the homily and the money pledge appeal.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The welcoming atmosphere. Also, the woman lector who gave the first two readings read beautifully. I also found the prayer over the four catechumens very beautiful.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
It was too hot in there.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people complimented me on my singing voice. I had been singing the hymns along with the cantor/organist.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I enjoyed the friendly atmosphere.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The friendliness of the people.
 
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