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|1908: Our Redeemer's,
South San Francisco, California, USA
Redeemer's, South San Francisco, California, USA.
Church in America.
The congregation held its first service in 1953 in a rented
store. Soon thereafter it had grown to the point where another
store needed to be rented. The present church was finished in
1955, the congregation itself having supplied most of the labor.
It's a green, cabin-like building, with a tall green bell
tower. The building is surrounded by a tree lined lawn, where
a drought-resistant garden has been planted.
They have had a long and supportive relationship with a highly
respected pre-school that rents space in a building on the grounds.
The congregation supports a large number of charities, outstanding
among which are Samaritan House, providing food, clothing and
shelter to those in need; Mateo Lodge, offering lodging and
treatment facilities for the mentally ill; the Sunny View Retirement
Community; and San Bruno Catholic Worker, part of the Catholic
Worker movement that provides resources for the homeless,
exiled, hungry and forsaken.
The church is situated in a neighborhood that couldn't be more
diverse if somebody had called central casting to film a depiction
of a U.N. meeting. On one side of the church is a modest, middle-class
suburban housing enclave, on the other a funeral parlor, and
directly across the street is a lower-rent district that includes
a very old, very popular dive bar.
The Revd Dr Gabriele Schroeder, pastor, was the presiding minister,
with the Revd John Lutz as assisting minister. Overseeing the
singing was Jeanette Cool, minister of music, assisted by Fran
The date & time:
Sunday, January 24, 2010, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Mostly full – I'd put the capacity at about 70.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Several people welcomed me personally. When I stepped in the
door (somewhat early) I was greeted by assigned greeters, but
also found a comfy lounge area in the narthex, where several
friendly parishioners eagerly greeted me. I felt enthusiastically
welcomed. Arrangements for the coffee hour were being made on
a side table in the lounge.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was a decently ergonomic blonde wood standard pew, lovingly
smoothed by many bottoms. No complaints.
How would you describe the pre-service
The parishioners relaxed on a big comfy couch or one of the
cushioned chairs in the lounge as they caught up with each other.
The room was buzzing and animated. At about 10.25 or so, a gentle
drift toward the pews began, and by the time the worship team
took their places for the procession, everyone was quietly seated.
What were the exact opening words of the
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the
communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all."
What books did the congregation use during the
Evangelical Lutheran Worship and a printed order of
What musical instruments
Blonde wood pipe organ and blonde wood upright piano. (I really
dug the blonde wood thing.) Their organ has a fascinating history
as described on their website – in short, it began life accompanying
silent films at the Roxie Theater in Oakland, California!
Did anything distract
The cantor had a gorgeous sultry alto voice, but during her
lectionary chanting I noticed her voice cutting out. At first
I blamed the microphone. On observation, though, I noticed that
actually she was holding the hymnal a little too high and blocking
her voice. I was distracted in that I wanted to beg her to step
into the microphone.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
California respectful casual. Not stiff and formal, but not
very happy clappy either. The hymns and the lectionary were
simple and dignified.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
8 Pastor Schroeder's style seemed marked by a kind of
steady, calm energy – enthusiastic, but deliberate. She made
a direct effort to address the eclectic background of the community
and encourage the parishioners to see that as a strength.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
Pastor Schroeder interestingly blended two of the readings:
Nehemiah 8:3-10 (Ezra reads from the Law to a large crowd) and
1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (we are members of the Body of Christ)
to encourage the congregation to "stand on the shoulders of
their fathers" while remembering that the members of the church
body will all have different uses and efficiencies.
Which part of the service was like being in
The responsive psalm reading was done by the worship leader
– a sparkling soprano – and the aforementioned sultry cantor,
who sang in a way that evoked jazz stylist Nina Simone or children's
folk singer Ella Jenkins. The combination of the two voices
was breathtaking. Also, during an otherwise mellow passing of
the peace, a congregant suddenly let out a shriek of joy and
threw her arms around an apparently long-absent churchmate,
declaring, "I've missed my friend!"
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The bathroom. There was a unisex facility further down the hall
with access for the disabled, but the general ladies' room was
hardly accessible even by a Barbie doll! I am not exactly petite,
but I can't imagine a standard twelve-year old performing adequately
in those stalls. The sink area was about a foot and a half from
the closed stall doors – a person standing at the sink would
have a tight squeeze to avoid getting hit by a door when it
opened. It was like reliving the stateroom scene from the classic
Marx Brothers film A Night at the Opera.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Since the coffee area was in the back of the church, I resorted
to standing by a chair and looking blank. Within seconds, a
couple of women came over and made small talk. One of them eventually
gestured toward the table and said, "They're setting up for
coffee hour. Feel free to have some."
How would you describe the after-service
Coffee, tea, all kinds of juice – and a huge platter of deli
sandwiches, with chips (crisps) on the side. I was told that
there was a lunch being served for their annual meeting, and
that I could dig in.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 If I weren't already fairly situated, I would definitely
give it a try. As it is, I may come back to visit. Both via
the sermon and the service sheet, I got the impression that
this is a church that celebrates diversity. To that end, I would
respectfully submit that a pub gathering across the street of
willing church members would be a wonderful missionary opportunity.
Get a pitcher of Stella Artois and make some friends.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. The sermon in particular encouraged me.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The alto, and "I've missed my friend!"
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