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Seventh Day Adventist, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Fading Lights, accompanied by Amanda B. Reckondwythe.
Seventh Day Adventist, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
The church is a fairly modern round brick structure with a 1970s
feel to the architecture. The sanctuary is semi-circular, with
two large flat video screens in the front as well as a smaller
monitor toward the rear of the sanctuary. A baptismal pool is
located on a balcony above the main stage. There were chairs
on the stage which could have been for a choir, but they were
not used during this service. Since choir rehearsals were mentioned
in the church calendar, I'm guessing the regular choir was away
for the holiday weekend. The most striking feature of the church
is a large window which allows a view of Camelback Mountain.
There is also a very large crying room at the back of the church
which several parents took advantage of.
One of the inserts in the worship guide contained a calendar
showing many of the church's activities. They are focused on
health, and an upcoming seminar on diet and genes was mentioned
during the opening portion of the service. Sabbath school classes
are conducted in English, Korean and Serbo-Croatian.
The church is located on East Camelback Road in a very affluent
area of Phoenix, near the border with Scottsdale and right next
to the posh Phoenician resort, "a luxurious oasis for relaxation,
celebration and rejuvenation," as their website proclaims.
Just a couple miles away is Scottsdale Fashion Square, the most
upscale shopping center in the state of Arizona. The physical
setting of the church is beautiful, with a gorgeous view of
Camelback Mountain behind the church.
Quite a few people. The Revd Charles White, senior pastor, led
the service and delivered the sermon. The Revd Benjamin Lundquist,
youth pastor, led the reception of an infant into the church.
A visiting minister conducted a baptism. Guest musicians John
and Mary Giger presented a program of spiritual music, accompanied
by Dorothy Anderson on piano. A gentleman whose name was not
given played the organ.
The date & time:
Saturday, November 29, 2008, 10.50am.
What was the name of the service?
A service of Thanksgiving and Praise with John and Mary Giger.
How full was the building?
Almost entirely full. I'd say the church can sit 600 and the
attendance was very close to that number. This is remarkable
since the service took place over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend,
which is a very popular travel time. There was a wide mix of
people and the children were quite well behaved. As is to be
expected in this denomination, the congregation were well dressed;
this is not a jeans and shorts crowd.
Did anyone welcome you
Yes. As we entered, a gentleman shook our hands, said he was
glad we had come, and handed us a worship guide which had several
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was well padded and was quite comfortable. There were no kneelers, which was interesting as we were asked to kneel during part of the prayer time. A bit unusual to kneel on the carpet in dress pants.
How would you describe the pre-service
While not the noisiest I've ever experienced, there was a definite
level of audible conversation. At least there were no teens
yelling across the church. The two guest musicians tested the
sound levels and rehearsed a bit, but stopped well before the
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning and happy Sabbath."
What books did the congregation use during the
In the pews were the Seventh Day Adventist Hymnal as
well as The Holy Bible, New International Version.
However, on the few instances where scripture was read or referred
to during the service, another translation was used. Many people
had brought their own Bibles with them.
What musical instruments were played?
Electric organ and a very nice concert grand piano in perfect
tune – I didn't get to see the make.
Did anything distract you?
The mountain view through the large window was distracting,
although in a good way. There was more conversation in the pews
during the service than I'm comfortable with. In particular,
two young girls sitting behind us conducted an endless barrage
of chatter until Miss Amanda turned around and shot them a glare
that could have stopped Niagara Falls.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
I'd describe it as contemporary. People applauded for the musicians.
The first part of the service had more of a feel of a business
conference rather than a worship service as various people got
up to speak. There was a reception of an infant into the church,
and a baptism of an adult candidate by immersion. We sang only
one hymn, a very traditional one ("Great is Thy Faithfulness"),
although we sang it twice. Much of the service featured a duet
by the two guest singers accompanied by piano (and accompanied
with virtuosity and flair!). The singers performed for 30 minutes
and sang both sacred music and some secular pieces with a religious
theme. One of the latter, "There Was Joy in My Mother's
House," caused a woman sitting in front of us to break
into tears. While John and Mary Giger were excellent, I was
more in "concert" mode than "worship" mode
by the end of their performance. They did make some biblical
references in between songs. In fact, they were the only people
in the service to mention the awaiting of the coming of Christ.
Perhaps it was this non-liturgical church's way of acknowledging
Advent! (As Miss Amanda remarked, "What do they know about
Advent? They're Adventists!")
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
7 I've been to many churches of various denominations.
This is the first church I've ever been to without a word being
read from any of the Gospels. The only scripture that was read
occurred during the sermon: Romans 3:24 ("Being justified
freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
Pastor White spoke about the meaning of "giving" in
the word "Thanksgiving." It wasn't a sermon as much
as a feel-good story about a clerk in a food stamp office who
was required to work on Thanksgiving Day. The clerk received
a call from a woman who was unable to use her food stamps to
buy food for Thanksgiving. The clerk made several calls and
was unable to find a store that would assist the woman. Finally,
the clerk reached the owner of a grocery store who agreed to
bring food from his own table to the woman. While the story
was touching, it almost seemed too perfect, as if it came out
of a human interest piece from a newspaper on a slow day.
Which part of the service was like being in
I've never seen a full immersion baptism before. That was very
interesting. Also, the skill of the pianist. She played quite
well and the piano was truly a remarkable instrument.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
During their presentation, one of the guest singers made a very
odd remark about "savages in loincloths." He mentioned that
two warring tribes on a Pacific island had brokered a peace
treaty by exchanging a child between them called the peace child.
"And so a child," he said, "made it possible
for these savages in loincloths to live in harmony with each
other." I'm certain we don't need to refer to anyone with
an outdated stereotype during a worship service.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not very much. We caught up with two other shipmates who had
arrived a bit late and so had not sat with us. There was a long
queue for the restroom, which seemed far too small for a church
of this size. Otherwise, the congregation seemed to disperse
quickly. We shook the pastor's hand on the way out, and he thanked
us for coming.
How would you describe the after-service
There was no coffee or after-service food provided.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 Realistically, I'd have a hard time making a non-liturgical
church my regular home. I found it odd to sing "Great is Thy
Faithfulness" rather than "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" as
the opening hymn during Advent. Still, if I lived close to this
church, I'd feel comfortable visiting on another Saturday.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. This congregation takes their faith seriously and the service showed that.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I'd have to say the very strange feeling of not knowing what
day it was during most of Saturday. I kept thinking it was Sunday
since I was dressed in church clothes and had gone to a service... on Saturday! One of our party even made the mistake of asking
someone if a building across the campus was the Sunday school.
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