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1816: Sacred Heart, Lake George, New York, USA
Sacred Heart, Lake George, New York, USA
Photo: stolt45
Mystery Worshipper: Adoro Te Devote.
The church: Sacred Heart, Lake George, New York, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Diocese of Albany.
The building: A tiny Gothic chapel of native quarry stone, dating from 1874, with bell tower. The altar is of Sienna marble and is enclosed by a carved wooden altar rail. There is some lovely stained glass depicting events in the missionary work of Father Isaac Jogues, a Jesuit priest who first set eyes on Lake George in 1646, the first European to have done so. It is all very beautiful – the church was never "wreckovated" after Vatican II and is simply a work of art!
The church: This is a very old Catholic Community that swells during tourist season due to its being within easy walking distance of most of the hotels around Lake George. They sponsor home-based faith sharing groups and a very active youth ministry. During the winter months they offer Wednesday evening home-cooked meals to all who may be in need of them. They host a Knights of Columbus chapter and provide outreaches to local nursing homes and infirmaries.
The neighborhood: Lake George is a small village in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains nestled at the south end of the lake that bears the same name. The village was from its earliest beginnings a favorite vacation destination – George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among other founding fathers, enjoyed spending leisure time there. The expansion of stagecoach and rail lines in the 19th century brought with them ever increasing hoards of holidaymakers, with elegant resort hotels as well as rustic cabins sprouting up to accommodate them. The birth of the automobile age in the early 20th century saw Lake George become a popular vacation spot for families, and it remains so to this day. The lake itself extends north for 32 miles and its shoreline is largely unsettled, ranging from quiet sandy beaches to rocky crags, cliffs, marshes and tall hemlock stands.
The cast: A visiting priest whom they referred to as "our friend Father Mills" and about eight lay people. I tried to get more information out of the bulletin but it was lacking.
The date & time: Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 20, 2009, 9.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Novus Ordo of the Catholic Church.

How full was the building?
Nearly full, but the church holds only about 100 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Someone at the door handed me a "worship resource" in silence.

Was your pew comfortable?
They were OK – typical of the pews you'd expect to find in an old church. The kneelers were a bit clunky but otherwise fine.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Noisy. People wandered around the sanctuary talking – among these was "our friend Father Mills."

What were the exact opening words of the service?
A layman offered a few words of welcome, and the liturgy itself began as usual with the sign of the cross.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A pamphlet that included the readings for the day and a number of hymns.

What musical instruments were played?
Synthesizer, guitar and tambourine.

Did anything distract you?
All the noise in the sanctuary before mass! The cantor flailed his arms wildly as he conducted the singing, but his own singing drowned everyone else out. Also, I saw no one genuflect.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A bit on the poorly executed, theatrical side. The priest seemed disinterested and the readers as well as the cantor seemed preoccupied with being theatrical and putting on a good show. I am told that under its present bishop, the Diocese of Albany has a reputation for liturgical chaos. The cantor seemed to like the tambourine and even danced a little dance to its rhythm at the end of mass.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
5 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
1 – It was awful! Rambling! At one point during the sermon, Mrs Te Devote turned to me and asked, "What's wrong with the priest?"

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
I'm not really sure. He talked about the geography of the Middle East (he seemed not to know where Syria is) and mentioned donuts after mass. He referred to the Pope as servant of the servants of God. Perhaps he was trying to say that we are all servants of God. But he lost me so early I can't be at all sure.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Such a perfectly preserved architectural gem made me think of all the faithful Catholics who had assisted at the holy sacrifice of the mass over all the years.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Too many people wandering around the sanctuary, and the fact that "our friend Father Mills" didn't seem to care.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were in Lake George to attend a wedding, and we had to be on our way lest we be late for that. But the priest was waiting outside and seemed to be very interested in shaking everyone's hand. If only he had celebrated mass with the same dedication.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
We couldn't stay.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 – We do not live in Lake George, but even if we did, we would see this church again only as we passed by on our way to another one.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I suppose it helped me understand suffering for the faith.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The way the cantor danced to the tambourine.
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