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United, Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Barrie, Ontario, Canada.
Church of Canada, Toronto
The church is a 1950s style structure with a horseshoe shaped
sanctuary. It is darkish as there is no natural light that comes
in without passing through stained glass.
They take pride in their music program and sponsor a number
of ministries, including a friendship group, food bank, label
and stamp collections to support a variety of special projects,
etc. They are a scent free church, discouraging the use of cologne,
perfume, after-shave, etc. in deference to members with allergies.
Through their Wheels to Church program, they offer rides to
and from church for those without transportation. It appears
to be a very stable congregation, the last pastor having served
for more than 30 years. They also share their space with a Korean
Barrie is located about an hour's drive north of Toronto. The
downtown area sits in a valley from which steep hills climb
to the outer edges of the city. Recreational activities such
as skiing and boating make it a sought-after tourist destination.
The church is located in a middle class suburban neighbourhood,
near a high school and a retirement home. The Barrie campus
of Georgian College is also nearby.
The Revd Bonnie E. Kelly, interim minister, presided. Joan Winter
was the lay reader. The names of the organist and various people
who read announcements were not given.
The date & time:
Third Sunday of Easter, April 6, 2008, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About two-thirds full. There were about a dozen children there
and I’d guess about two-thirds of the congregation were age
55 or older.
Did anyone welcome you
I was welcomed with a warm handshake and a copy of the bulletin.
I wasn’t seated five minutes when someone introduced themselves,
welcomed me, asked if I was visiting, and wished me a good morning.
Was your pew comfortable?
Padded and quite comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service
I felt like I had dropped in on a family get-together. There
was chatter, laughter, business being addressed, and catching
up on issues. I didn't feel the least bit uncomfortable despite
not being privy to most of the business or issues.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning, and welcome to Grace United Church."
What books did the congregation use during the
In the pews were The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version,
and the United Church of Canada’s Voices United hymn
What musical instruments were played?
A grand piano and an organ.
Did anything distract you?
To my surprise and great distraction, a husband and wife team
from my home church walked in. I tried to become invisible so
as to avoid the embarrassing "Well, what are you
doing here?" and "Why aren't you at church
back home?" exchange. There was also an adorable baby three
rows ahead who made smiles and happy eyes at me.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
There was a relaxed feel to the service. Most of the people
wore comfortable clothing. There were a few suits, a few t-shirts
and sweaters. I counted six neckties in total. But the proceedings
were by no means irreverent, more like a family gathering. I
recalled singing one of the hymns at church camp 25 years ago,
and singing it again made it feel like we were all gathered
around a campfire. During the sermon, the minister sort of sidled
up to the pulpit like your mom might stand at the kitchen table,
or like a kindly old uncle might hold court down at the neighbourhood
pub. But seven different people read announcements that lasted
a total of 15 minutes, and several more minutes were taken up
by birthday/anniversary announcements.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 Pastor Kelly spoke with an air of comfort, but her
format was a little loose. Some jokes, some anecdotes, several
off-the-cuff meanderings, and oh yes, a sermon.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The pastor took as her text Luke 24:13-35, the disciples' encounter
with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. The disciples felt
disappointed and let down at the apparent abandonment of God.
Where do we, here and now in 2008, feel let down? Where do we
find comfort? Where did the disciples find it?
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
Pastor Kelly communicated so well with the children. She employed
Dr Seuss's Horton Hears a Who! imagery, with the punchline: "A person is a person, no matter how small."
At children's prayer time, she let the children do the leading.
Hearing a group of children pray in that manner was a wonderful
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Seeing someone I knew from my home church. I also spotted at
least three business acquaintances and feared that my cover
would be blown for sure.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Social time had been announced earlier in the service and was
mentioned again at the conclusion. As it was held immediately
outside the sanctuary doors, it was hard to look lost. All roads
lead to refreshments, as they say. Suddenly I heard, "Well,
what are you doing here?" and there were the husband
and wife from back home. It turns out that they have a sort
of his/her membership and are active at two churches. Needless
to say I was welcomed with conversation.
How would you describe the after-service
Coffee and a light luncheon were available, but the service
had lasted almost an hour and a half and I had family waiting,
so I couldn't stay.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 There was a strong family feel, but I do wonder how
long it would be until I would be part of the family. And the
sermon left me hungry.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. The reaffirmation of the family we are all a part of.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The children's prayer time.
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