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1814: Venice Presbyterian, Ross, Ohio, USA
Venice Presbyterian, Ross, Ohio, USA
Mystery Worshipper: ChurchSpy.
The church: Venice Presbyterian, Ross, Ohio, USA.
Denomination: Presbyterian Church (USA).
The building: This is a very well kept old two story traditional red brick church with white belfry and pointed steeple. The sanctuary is on the upper floor and is handicapped-accessible via a new elevator. It's a plain white room with blue carpeting, brightly illuminated via chandeliers as well as recessed ceiling lighting. The communion table sits on a platform behind which is a curtain framed by a classical proscenium. A large cross hangs on the curtain.
The church: Venice Presbyterian is located at the crossroads of the community and has the potential to be a real mover within that area. They support dozens of local charitable groups, especially food banks. Their youth groups are billed as a safe place to have fun with friends, support one another, and talk about faith. There are men's and women's ministries and a vibrant music program blending elements of classical, traditional, and contemporary music. They hold one worship service each Sunday, with junior church and nursery care available.
The neighborhood: Ross is a small town in southwest Ohio near the border with Indiana and Kentucky. When first founded in 1817 it was called Venus, which somehow got corrupted to Venice (hence the name of the church). When a post office was opened in 1834, the name was changed to Ross. It's a quiet little place, with clean, well kept homes and small businesses in the heart of town.
The cast: The Revd Lance Jones, pastor; Curt Reppart, worship assistant; Darryl Collier, music director.
The date & time: Sunday, August 23, 2009, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Worship Service.

How full was the building?
Bulging with folks. They are considering offering a second service.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Several folks shook our hands and introduced themselves as we entered. We received visitor name tags. Everyone around us in the pews seemed friendly and cheerful.

Was your pew comfortable?

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very friendly as you might expect in a small community where many know each other. It was "joyful noisy" as children and others came in.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
Oops – I was so caught up in the friendly atmosphere that I didn't notice the opening words.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A Bible and two hymn books, one traditional and one modern.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano and organ.

Did anything distract you?
The inside of the sanctuary is so white as to be almost blinding. Attractive yet noticeable. It had a very clean look, as if freshly painted.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Oh, this service was anything but stiff! I would say it was a very open and casual but reverent style, not at all disrespectful but welcoming.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
20 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – The theme for the day was God's holy armor, and this was repeated in the choice of scriptural passages, the children's sermon (with the preacher dressed as a Roman gladiator), the adult sermon, and illustrations in the bulletin. It all seemed very appropriate.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Just as armor protected Roman soldiers in ancient times, so does the Word of God protect us from the evils of the world.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
One of the members of the Board of Sessions, Mr Ray Miller, sang two beautiful duets along with his wife Mildred.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was a "greeting time," which always makes me uncomfortable, although Mrs ChurchSpy enjoyed it.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Lots of folks visited with us and asked us where we were from.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea, fruit juice, coffee, and a variety of cookies were available. It was all well done in a friendly manor.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – Having been raised in a small town, I can understand how important a church like this is to the community. Were I to live here I would probably join, but I prefer the big city and so will probably not be changing residence anytime soon.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
How the preacher dressed up in Roman armor for the children's sermon, and how the theme was carried through the entire service.
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