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|1601: St Paul,
Pensacola, Florida, USA
Paul, Pensacola, Florida, USA.
Church in America.
The church is contemporary suburban – brick with native stained
woods. It is almost an equal X cruciform church except that
there is no choir behind the altar, which stands completely
free in the center. For the most part it is austere in a pretty
way. There is a pulpit on the gospel side and a movable lectern.
The organ case, choir and organ are in the north transept. No
seat is more than about 50-60 feet from an altar rail.
They have a Saturday evening service plus three Sunday services
and church school. They manage a well-respected parochial school
and serve a neighborhood which ranges from upper lower class
to upper class. There are several youth and adult groups both
for fellowship and spiritual growth.
Pensacola is located on the Gulf of Mexico in the far western
part of Florida's panhandle, near the Alabama border –
a location highly vulnerable to hurricanes. The church is on
an arterial street with hospital/medical, retail and dining
facilities nearby. The premier shopping mall is in the neighborhood.
Two churches of other denominations are within two blocks of
The Revd James Cone, pastoral assistant, celebrated and preached,
as the pastor was on holiday. He was assisted by a rather senior
clergyman who failed to identify himself when your worshiper
attempted to make his acquaintance after the service.
The date & time:
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 10, 2008, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion – With One Voice Setting 5.
How full was the building?
The church probably seats about 350 when completely maxed out;
there appeared to be about 60 or 70 in attendance. A lady at
coffee admitted that the summer slump had set in, and according
to those with whom I conversed, the attendance at this service
has been robbed by the popularity of the newly-established 9.30am
contemporary service. Notes in the service leaflet bore that
out and confirmed the current slump.
Did anyone welcome you
Yes. I was greeted by a departing parishioner as I walked in,
and the person handing out the service leaflets was hospitable.
The peace was passed, and enthusiastically! Mr Cone shook hands
with every person in the church, but the folks seemed only to
murmur one to another, all the while consuming well over two
minutes – a long time for such a small group.
Was your pew comfortable?
Too comfortable! These pews are padded both seat and back and
probably are the villain for killing what should be great acoustics
(more later). Without an adequate pre-service coffee fix, you
might just fall asleep!
How would you describe the pre-service
Very quiet and still. Friends acknowledged the presence of others
and a few people nodded to the Mystery Worshipper, who saw no
one he knew from his daily life.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning" spoken to the congregation by the church secretary
after the completion of the opening voluntary. She then proceeded
to make all the announcements.
What books did the congregation use during the
The church prepares and distributes at the door a comprehensive
service leaflet than includes everything except the hymns and
the selections from the lectionary. In the pew racks is Evangelical
Lutheran Worship, a combination prayer book/missal/hymnal,
and The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version.
What musical instruments were played?
The church has a quite nice two-manual pipe organ, which, unfortunately,
is strangled by the padded pews. This was used for the service
your worshipper attended. Also located in the choir area was
a piano, a double bass, a conga drum, a standard dance band
drum set, and other goodies, obviously intended for use at the
Did anything distract you?
The public address system: it is totally unnecessary. While
the room easily accommodates 300 people, no person is more than
60 feet from the altar or the pulpit. The clergy used body mikes
and the timbre of the system is harsh. The service would come
off better with hard pews and no mike. Mr Cone preached from
the portable lectern in front of the congregation instead of
from the pulpit, again with his body mike. As a result, his
delivery required him to take on the manner of an oscillating
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The style to me was like low-church Episcopalian, or even Methodist.
Although much of the service was sung, the settings were non-traditional
and light. Because the crowd was small and there was no choir,
singing was nominal.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 I did not like the associate pastor's preaching from
the lectern on the floor instead of from the pulpit. But the
sermon was well written and delivered in a style that seemed
almost extemporaneous. This guy is a pretty good preacher!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
This Sunday's gospel embraced the loaves and fishes story and
the Peter-almost-walking-on-water story. Mr Cone blended the
stories into one, the object of which is the necessity to maintain
one's faith in the face of daunting issues.
Which part of the service was like being in
The sermon was the high point in the service.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
That PA system, again, is abysmal. Our antecedents could be
heard in massive cathedrals where there is no need for electronics.
Although they were not used, two super-sized TV monitors were
mounted on the wall up and behind the altar. I am not sure what
they are for, but they might be useful with following the bouncing
ball in a gospel music sing-a-long!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people spoke to me in passing, and was I sort of moved
toward the parish hall where there were some sweets and coffee.
Again, mostly people were talking amongst themselves.
How would you describe the after-service
Decent coffee, tuna salad finger sandwiches, doughnut holes, fruit and assorted cookies.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 The service was entirely too casual for my taste, but
for someone who has that preference it could be just the ticket.
I was told – and I would like to see and hear for myself –
that the senior pastor is dynamic.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The facility was quite nice for a suburban neighborhood family church. The preaching was certainly better than most.
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