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  1427: St Anne's, Annapolis, Maryland, USA

St Anne's, Annapolis, Maryland, USA

Mystery Worshipper: Ralegh.
The church: St Anne's, Annapolis, Maryland, USA.
Denomination: The Episcopal Church.
The building: When you gaze at Annapolis from the harbor, St Anne's is one of three buildings that rise noticeably above the city (the others being the State Capitol and the chapel of the US Naval Academy). Located at 199 Duke of Gloucester Street, the present building was erected in 1858-1859 and is the parish's third. It was built of red brick (as is much of Annapolis) in Romanesque Revival style, and the tower houses the town clock. The nave is ringed with stained glass windows, one row at eye-level and another row near the ceiling. During the American Civil War, the state of Maryland was torn between loyalty to the Union and the Confederacy; this is evidenced by the dedication of the church's brass eagle lectern to the memory of Captain James Wadell, who as commander of the Confederate raider Shenandoah is said to have sunk or captured more American ships than anyone else in history. Among the church's treasured possessions is a silver communion set, still in use today (although slightly altered over the years), given by King William III after the first church was erected.
The church: The parish was founded in 1692 and, as the only church in Annapolis save for a private Roman Catholic chapel, grew quickly. Noted parishioners in those early years included at least two signers of the Declaration of Independence as well as Francis Scott Key. Key, after witnessing how the American flag withstood the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, hastily scribbled a poem on the back of an envelope which, when set to the popular drinking song Anacreon in Heaven, was to become the American National Anthem. Present day St Anne's is active in several ministries, including Bible study; men's, women's and children's groups; meal preparation for the homeless; environmental issues; and other outreaches and fellowships.
The neighborhood: Annapolis, the capital of Maryland and home to the United States Naval Academy, is a beautiful little city on the Chesapeake Bay. Founded in the late 17th century, it was named in honor of Princess Anne, future Queen of England. Annapolis prospered from the start and was known for its elegant society living in elegant homes. Many of the state buildings and private homes were constructed of red brick, as were some of the streets and even the sidewalks, giving the city an appearance found nowhere else. That, coupled with careful preservation and restoration, has made the area a tourist mecca, where camera-toting folk rub elbows with midshipmen and local residents. The church is in a residential area with beautiful houses just above the historic downtown district.
The cast: The Revd Robert Wickizer, acting rector; the Revd Dr Gid Montjoy III, senior pastoral associate; Carolene Winter, organist; Dick Israel, lector; Margot Hamill and Carol Sullivan, chalicists.
The date & time: April 22, 2007, 11.15am.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist.

How full was the building?
Perhaps one-third full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The greeter holding out a service pamphlet said, "Do you want one?" I nodded, and she handed me the pamphlet without further comment.

Was your pew comfortable?
Simple, unadorned wooden pews with red cushions. Beautifully embroidered kneelers. My kneeler was dedicated to a young man who had died at the age of 16 in 1973. The pew itself and the kneeler were comfortable enough, but the space was too tight for relaxed kneeling.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet on the whole, but some people behind me were in discussion quite animatedly from the time I came in until the prelude ended.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. Welcome."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
1979 Book of Common Prayer and the 1982 Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?
A Freiburger Orgelbau tracker organ in the gallery, installed in 1975.

Did anything distract you?
The Revd Montjoy had a resonant voice that reminded me of Walter Cronkite, but I found him very difficult to understand as a result of his accent and/or muddied enunciation. I spent a lot of time just trying to decipher what he was saying.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Middle-of-the-road Episcopal. Polite. Well-orchestrated.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
18 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – The Revd Wickizer seemed warm and organized, but was unable to get the congregants involved.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
This was an Earth Day service, so the environment was the topic of the acting rector's sermon. Although God gave man dominion over the earth, it is still God's creation and we have a responsibility to take care of it, not just exploit its resources. In South Africa people joke that plastic shopping bags are the national bird, because they are not recycled and discarded bags get hung up on all the plants. He shared his dream of putting solar panels on the roof of the church, and offered other suggestions for doing our share to clean up the environment. Finally, he noted he was not saying all this to make us feel guilty, but rather to inspire us to look for ways we can be kinder to this world God has left us to take care of.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
When the time came for communion, Father Wickizer said, "Everyone is welcome." No restrictions stated or implied. This may not be according to Episcopal guidelines, but it is a practice I personally feel is in line with Jesus's teachings.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
A moment of silence was held for the victims of the shootings at Virginia Tech. The church bell tolled 33 times, one for each death, and for me, the hellish moment was when some people behind me whispered back and forth throughout the entire tolling of the bell.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
This service seemed to be on the in-and-out model. We lined up to shake hands with the acting rector and the associate priest and then made our way out to our cars. Although we newcomers had been asked to identify ourselves during the service, no one made a point of coming over to welcome me. The rector had suggested planting a flower alongside the church after the service as part of an Earth Day celebration, but when I walked along the side of the church, I noted that all of the plants seemed already to be in place.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No coffee after this service.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – This just struck me as a very blah service, with nobody too involved. Perhaps an earlier service at this church would be better. When Father Wickizer asked the congregants to welcome the newcomers, he got a half-hearted response, and he commented, "If I had said this at the previous service, they would have received a rousing round of applause."

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not really.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The ringing of the bell during the moment of silence, despite the whispering.
 
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