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2125: Prince of Peace, Ontario, California, USA
Prince of Peace, Ontario
Mystery Worshipper: Origen.
The church: Prince of Peace, Ontario, California, USA.
Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Pacifica Synod.
The building: 1950s style modern era building that looks like a blend of a school and a cabin. There's a simple altar comprised of a large chancel cross, a table for serving the eucharist, and the pulpit.
The church: They operate a local preschool on their premises along with hosting a Seventh Day Adventist congregation on Saturday mornings. Wednesdays they offer Alcoholics Anonymous for women.
The neighborhood: Ontario is a city located about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, in the area of California known as the Inland Empire. It was established in 1882 by two engineers from Ontario, Canada, George and William Chaffey, and was intended to be a model urban agricultural community. The church is located in a residential area near several parks and other churches plus an elementary school.
The cast: The Revd Dennis Dirks, pastor; Penny Pan, organist and pianist; Jerry Wallace, liturgist; and Bob Tuff, greeter and lector.
The date & time: Sunday, January 30, 2011.

What was the name of the service?
Service of Worship (Setting Two).

How full was the building?
Nearly empty with no more than 20 to 25 people present.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, several members of the church greeted me warmly and handed me an order of worship. They asked if this was my first time visiting, and if I had any prior experience in Lutheran tradition.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes it was very comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Conversation was mixed in with the congregational announcements. It fell reverential once the organist started playing the first hymn.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Let us sing hymn number 249, 'God himself is present'."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Lutheran Book of Worship.

What musical instruments were played?
Electronic organ and a piano.

Did anything distract you?
I lost my place in the Book of Worship and couldn't find the hymns or the psalter.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Liturgical yet with little to no warmth. Congregational singing was greatly disappointing considering itís a small church with no choir, and the only warmth I sensed in their singing was in the Kyrie and Gloria. There was no exchange of peace.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
18 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Pastor Dirks carried himself with confidence in the pulpit and related some real-life stories to the biblical readings.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The pastor's sermon was entitled "Yurts and Tabernacles". He told a personal story about having built a yurt, a type of large tent, and he tied it in with Psalm 15 ("Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?"). He used the temporary nature of the yurt as an example of how we are only dwelling on earth for a short time until we return home to the embrace of God. He connected all of that with humanityís stewardship of the Lordís good creation.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sermon, the warm welcome, and the singing of the Kyrie and Gloria.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The congregational singing of hymns.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Everyone was friendly and made sure I knew about the food and fellowship following the service.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Refreshments included coffee cake with orange juice. The juice was fresh and satisfying and the coffee cake was addicting and sweet.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – While I admire the ELCA and the Lutheran liturgy, I would like to see the congregational singing here strengthened, a choir added, and for them to retain their hospitality and warmth. I would like to see the presence of more college aged/Gen Xer types like me in the church.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Warmth and intimacy of a smaller church.

 
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