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||1331: St Mark's, Portland, Oregon, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Abed-Nego.
The church: St Mark's, Portland, Oregon, USA.
Denomination: Anglican Church in America.
The building: The present red brick building dates from the early
20th century and is in the Romanesque style, reminiscent of the great Italian
basilicas. One's eye is immediately drawn toward the sanctuary and the high
altar, where several large murals depict the Ascension and Christ the Great
High Priest. Equally dramatic is the rood screen where reside a number of
Venetian statues donated in 1911 by a certain Miss Percival, sister of the
noted Anglo-Catholic clergyman Henry R. Percival, rector of the Church of
the Evangelists in Philadelphia. When that church closed, Miss Percival
removed her residence and her substantial wealth to Portland, where she
instituted a golden age of catholic worship in her adopted city. Her memorial
is the rose window installed by the Connick Studios of Boston, whose work
also adorns Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and St Clement's Church in
Philadelphia. Between the church building and the parish hall is a beautiful
Calvary garden featuring a life-size crucifix.
The church: I invariably look for the oddball or memorable when answering
this question, but found the congregation to be very sociable and welcoming,
comprised of middle-aged and up, middle class, white people. On January
17, 1993, the parish officially withdrew from the Episcopal Church and affiliated
itself with the Anglican Church in America (ACA). The Rev. Charles H. Osborn,
who had served as rector from 1962 to 1974 and had helped found the ACA,
returned to serve as interim priest-in-charge until a new rector could be
The neighborhood: Portland is Oregon's largest city and enjoys a
climate marked by warm summers and rainy but temperate winters – perfect
for roses. Visitors to a convention of the Episcopal Church held in 1888
dubbed Portland "the city of roses." A few years later, the first
Portland Rose Festival was held, and has been held each June ever since.
I suspect that this neighborhood has come up in the world since the time
when St Mark's was built. It fairly bristles with life. Coffee bars, upscale
restaurants and fascinating shops abound, and students and young families
fill the sidewalks. Lots of energy! Amazingly there are no fast-food franchises.
The cast: The celebrant was the Rev. W.S. Herb, curate. Serving as
deacon was the Rev. M.D. Lillegard, SSC, rector, and the subdeacon was Mr
Charles Hart III. Music director was Mr Luke Woods.
The date & time: Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, September 3, 2006,
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
I'd say about half full, about 60 people, with everybody scattered around
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. A charming lady greeted us even before we were through the door, and pointed in the direction of an equally charming man who handed us a slim library of liturgical pointers. (More on that to come...)
Was your pew comfortable?
Perfectly satisfactory in every way.
How would you describe the pre-service
Quiet and reverential, though it felt as if everyone arrived just moments before the service began.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Thou shalt purge me O Lord, with hyssop, and I shall be clean"
– the opening words of the Asperges.
What books did the congregation use during the
The Book of Common Prayer 1928; The Hymnal 1940; People's Missal;
plus an order of service that contained the propers, the hymn numbers and
the scripture readings as well as the weekly schedule of masses. There was
also a different order of service containing a breakdown of the mass, along
with page numbers for the various sections as located in the Book of
Common Prayer plus hymn numbers for those parts of the mass that were
going to be sung congregationally. And then there was a sheet of paper telling
us who donated the flowers, whose birthday or anniversary would occur during
the week, announcements about religious education classes, and advance notice
of upcoming feasts. On another sheet was given the music for the Asperges
and for the responses to be sung between each of the Ten Commandments. Then
there was a flyer forewarning us that four weeks from now would be the time
for the parish Michaelmas feast. We were advised to "bake our pumpkin
pies, roast the goose and bake the apples." A final leaflet gave us
an update on the organ fund, along with a request for donations to "replace
the solenoids in the brustwerks." This last leaflet also repeated information
about the religious education classes and broke the news that there would
be a saint of the day discussion group every Thursday after the noon mass
(bring a bag lunch). But enough! I'll have more to say about all of this
in the hellish bits below.
What musical instruments were played?
A most excellent organ, played by someone who knew how to play it. The fine
Werner-Bosch tracker-action organ was dedicated in 1966.
Did anything distract you?
I couldn't get over how ill-matched the green of the altar frontal was with
the green of the celebrant's chasuble. The altar was a muted sage whereas
the vestment bordered on the emerald. Ouch!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
High church Anglo-Catholic was the order of the day though there was only
one chasuble in evidence, and I don't think I saw any birettas until the
greeting line at the end of mass.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Father Lillegard took only two words from the Gospel of the day
and very effectively connected them with five words from the day's Epistle
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Mark's Gospel tells us that as Christ was about to heal the deaf man at
Decapolis, he looked up to heaven and sighed. Why do we think that
Jesus sighed? Was it because the deaf man would be distracted by the miracle
and miss the message? In 2 Corinthians, St Paul reminds us that our
sufficiency is of God. God will bring us to the fulfillment of Christ's
promise; he does not want us to be mere puppets. The existence of free will
may bring about war, sickness and sin, but it also strengthens our spiritual
muscles. Our Lord sighed because he knew that many will miss that message.
Which part of the service was like being in
I have always considered Episcopalians to inclusive and tolerant of differences
in their ranks, but even so I had to respect the fact that these good Christian
people had been prepared to go to very great lengths to uphold their most
dearly-held beliefs. They had broken with the Episcopal Church because they
felt that they must maintain their firmly-held and much-loved traditions
– even if it meant severing their historic roots. I would find that
hard to do, and I admire such tenacity.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
For all the literature we were handed, we learned nothing about the organ
prelude and postlude or the communion anthem and we had no notion who
would sing it! And some of the handouts were in conflict with others. The
Asperges/Decalogue leaflet, for example, was musically inaccurate. We were
embarrassed to be singing musical notes that were at considerable variance
to everyone else's! I'm not very retiring when it comes to joining in communal
singing. (Some of my British friends would definitely say I give it "the
full welly"!) And I'm a good reader when it comes to music. So there
was something distinctly hellish about singing the wrong notes in the right
places with quite such confidence and self-assurance. And did we really
need to have a half dozen publications in hand to get through the service,
with not one of them being definitive?
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were warmly welcomed in the greeting line, and invited to join everyone
in the church hall for coffee and refreshments.
How would you describe the after-service
Everyone was a bit self-absorbed, but we did break the ice with the lady serving the coffee, and one introduction led to another.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 It would be 10 if it wasn't for that breach with ECUSA.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The beauty of the Calvary garden between the church and the hall.
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