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1673: Cathedral of the King, Mandaluyong, the Philippines
Cathedral of the King, Mandaluyong, the Philippines
Mystery Worshipper: Pewpotato.
The church: Cathedral of the King, Mandaluyong, the Philippines.
Denomination: International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, Diocese of Manila.
The building: This former warehouse for a pharmaceutical company was substantially and carefully renovated to look like a real cathedral. One enters through a pair of iron gates into a small garden/foyer where there is a section for prayer complete with a votive candle stand and an image of the crucified Christ, somewhat distracting – even disturbing – in that Christ is totally naked! They say it's an attempt to make it close to reality since scholars believe that criminals in Roman times were crucified naked. Inside the air-conditioned cathedral, the warehouse windows were replaced by colored glass, and supporting pillars were refurbished to make them look gothic. The altar is like a mini-representation of the altar of St Peter's Basilica in Rome. Gold is the dominant color scheme. A pulpit stands on the congregation's left side and a gold eagle lectern on the right. On the wall behind the altar is a statue of Christ, flanked by Moses and Elijah and topped by archangels.
The church: The cathedral began as a Pentecostal congregation largely through the efforts of Assembly of God ministers Tom and Jane Hines. In the mid-1990s, Pastor Hines began to introduce classic and ancient liturgical elements into the worship services like genuflection, making the sign of the cross, priestly vestments, etc., to the dismay of some of their members who felt like they were beginning to return to the Catholic faith which they left when they became "born again." Not long after that, the pastor affiliated the congregation with the then new Charismatic Episcopal Church, a denomination formed in an attempt to unify the Catholic-evangelical-charismatic streams of universal Christianity. Tom Hines was installed as bishop of the Philippines, and Cathedral of the King became a full sacramental Catholic/Orthodox-style congregation in spirit and form. As a result, the fellowship saw a massive exodus of members - from 6000 down to roughly 1000 people. Despite all that, the cathedral is still one of the largest congregations in the communion. Notable among the cathedral's ministries is the Holy Redeemer Home for Children, devoted to the care and well-being of poor street children in the metropolitan Manila region. Masses are broadcast one week delayed on national television.
The neighbourhood: The cathedral lies along a narrow road called Sheridan Street in the city of Mandaluyong, one of metro Manila's municipalities. Immediately surrounding the cathedral are rows and rows of warehouses. It is located just off the tip of Ortigas Center where Greenhills Christian Fellowship, Christ's Commission Fellowship and Victory Christian Fellowship (all the subject of recent Mystery Worship reports) are located.
The cast: The Most Revd Loren Thomas Hines, Archbishop and Primate of Asia, was the celebrant and preacher, with the Revd Ariel Santos as co-celebrant.
The date & time: 16 November 2008, 9.00am.

What was the name of the service?
The Holy Mass.

How full was the building?
It was almost full – I'd say about 500-700 people were present.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. A friendly usher greeted me warmly at the door and handed me a 40-page (yes!) order of worship. As I walked down the aisle, I felt the thickness of the booklet with my fingers and thought, "Uh-oh, this service is going to be very long!"

Was your pew comfortable?
Monobloc stackable plastic chairs – not very comfortable for a service as long as that. One or two older ladies had their maids bring their own embroidered cushions. And like my usual complaint in other Philippine churches, the chairs were arranged too close to each other! The entire time I envied the archbishop, who had a nicely cushioned gilded throne!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was very peaceful and solemn. There was an obvious sense of respect within the warehouse-turned-cathedral. People approached their seats quietly.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
We stood to sing a lengthy string of inspirational songs in preparation for worship. The first of these began: "Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Order of the Holy Mass, the aforementioned 40-page booklet. It included the prayers, acclamations, songs and scripture readings. They apparently prepare a new booklet each week.

What musical instruments were played?
From where I sat I saw a grand piano, a couple of synthesizers, four violins, a cello, and a drum set. The musicians produced wonderful music! When I learned the mass was going to be televised a week later, I made it a point to watch the service. I was frustrated when I did because only the piano had been miked! So, goodbye to the good music the other instrumentalists produced!

Cathedral of the King, Mandaluyong, the Philippines

Did anything distract you?
(1) The church used too much incense! It smelled good, yes, but there was just too much of it. I felt like I was worshipping in the clouds. (2) There were just too many liturgical dancers! (3) The camera men dollying, panning and moving about the cathedral.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was a weird mix of happy-clappy, stiff-upper-lip and everything else. But I guess that's whole idea of being a "convergent" church – it was supposed to be a solemn sacramental liturgical mass with people clapping and lifting their hands, lots of singing new songs mixed with ancient chants, lots of swaying and dancing, lots of kneeling and standing. But overall it was a rather sad cacophony of sounds and sights – a church suffering from hopefully a mild case of schizophrenia.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
45 minutes (the entire mass was almost three hours!).

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – The archbishop was a gifted speaker, but he lacked the necessary energy to keep up with the supposed charismatic nature of the church. He was highly conversational but thought-provoking, yet he seemed cuffed to the pulpit.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The archbishop took as his text the lectionary reading for that Sunday, Matthew 25:1415;19-29 (the parable of the talents). As Christians, we are called by God and empowered to enter and experience his joy through service and holiness. We must condemn the apathy by which Christians and churches have forgotten about the work of the gospel and instead have gravitated toward sin.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The singing of the Gloria, Agnus Dei, and Sanctus was beautiful; the choir was angelic. One of the good things about the "convergent" style of worship is that ancient elements of liturgy are used. In the case of this cathedral, the singing of those elements lifted my spirit.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Too much incense smoke! I can worship without it, and I can worship with it. But as much as there was at the cathedral ... it was just way too much! They censed the people at the beginning, they censed the gospel book, they censed the people again at the offertory and communion, and more censing in between I guess. It was a service in which I "smoked" the entire time.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I did not hang around. The service took so long I just felt I needed some fresh air after all that censing!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Didn't see any. But then again, if there was, I would not have had any because the service started just minutes after I had finished breakfast and ended around lunch time.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – I would if there were no other churches around the area, but there are. There are other churches within three square miles that I find more "satisfying."

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I'm always glad I'm a Christian.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
SMOKE!
 
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