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  1381: Grace United Methodist, Carbondale, Illinois, USA

Grace United Methodist, Carbondale, Illinois

Mystery Worshipper: Curious Cat.
The church: Grace United Methodist, Carbondale, Illinois, USA.
Denomination: United Methodist Church.
The building: It is a large single story brick building. Nothing unusual about this building. It looks about what you'd expect a small town Methodist church to look like.
The church: There are three worship services every Sunday, including holy communion once each month. They sponsor United Methodist Men, United Methodist Women, Circle of Friends, Boy Scouts and other such organizations. They also offer Bible study, handbell chorus, junior and senior choir, etc.
The neighborhood: Carbondale is located in the south of Illinois in an area called Little Egypt – no one seems to know why although theories abound. The city is home to Southern Illinois University. In the past, university students have earned a reputation for raucous, rowdy, destructive behavior on Halloween night, resulting in annual closures of downtown Carbondale on that occasion. The architect Buckminster Fuller, designer of the geodesic dome, made his home in Carbondale.
The cast: The Rev. Brian Manigold, pastor.
The date & time: December 10, 2006, 11.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Late Worship.

How full was the building?
The building was really full. I would guess about 150-200 people, but there wasn't much room for more congregants.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. There were two greeters at the door. When I sat down, an elderly couple behind me started a conversation about my school work and extended an invitation to come and worship at a later date. This seemed like a very friendly congregation.

Was your pew comfortable?
Average pew. Not terribly comfortable but not uncomfortable enough to warrant notice.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was lots of talking and laughing. A real sense of community.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. This is the day that the Lord has made."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
United Methodist Hymnal and The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version. There was also a doodle pad "For Young Methodists." On the inside of the pad there was a picture of a bee with the caption "Beeing quiet in church is good."

What musical instruments were played?
Piano and organ.

Did anything distract you?
During the singing there was a problem with the organ. A loud high pitched squeal nearly drowned out the singing. Two young men in the choir were laughing so hard that I started laughing too. The singing went on and no one mentioned it, but it kept happening.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was fairly traditional. We sang Christmas songs. There was no raising of hands or the like, but it wasn't necessarily stiff.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
There was no sermon. In its place, a special Christmas cantata was performed.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The cantata, called Silent was the Night, was great. The choir was most impressive and it really put me in the Christmas spirit. The readings between the songs were also very nice. The overall effect was very powerful.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
After the service, a long line had formed to greet the pastor. I had no choice but to join it, since I had hung my coat near the front entrance and I spotted no alternative exit. I had to wait it out for what seemed like an excruciatingly long time.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was greeted by a choir member who was very friendly and asked about where I was from.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I didn't see any coffee.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – There was a sense of community and some real excitement about Christmas season. I would not hesitate to attend regularly.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The friendliness of the congregation and their interest in me as a visitor.
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