Worshipper: Angel Unaware.
Park Cities Presbyterian,
Dallas, Texas, USA.
Church in America.
The building is an imposing limestone structure. The interior
is bright, clean and airy, the result of a recent renovation.
Additionally, predominantly blue and red stained glass windows
line both side aisles of the sanctuary. The front of the sanctuary
is graced with a brand new and majestic pipe organ; its case
of dark mahogany complements the other liturgical furniture
and wood trim of the sanctuary.
This is a relatively new congregation, having first met in
1991. Their first pastor was called by a unanimous vote of
the congregation; that worthy served until 2006. The present
pastor, their second, was called in 2008. They have dozens
of ministries, all well described on their website. To mention
only one that seemed special: They organize CARES teams (I
couldn't find out what the acronym stands for, but apparently
this is a nation-wide movement) consisting of small families
or adult roommates who live in apartment communities where
they serve as spiritual witnesses. (It is claimed that 95
per cent of people who live in apartments do not attend church
but would do so if encouraged.) They also offer Sunday Morning
Communities, a wide variety of fellowship and worship groups
that form the backbone of congregational life.
Highland Park is just to the north of downtown Dallas. It
is an elite, affluent and wealthy suburb. The area screams
money, and the church building and campus as such fit into
this neighborhood beautifully. The quiet streets are lined
with magnificent estates and lawns, winding walkways, and
ponds and fountains.
The Revd Mark Alan Davis, senior pastor, presided. The Revd
Tim Keller, associate pastor, was the preacher.
The date & time:
November 9, 2008, 9.30am.
What was the name of
Order for the Worship of God.
How full was the building?
Nearly full, including the rear
gallery. The congregation were a healthy mix of gender, age
and race, though the people appeared economically homogenous.
Most every gentleman wore a jacket, starched shirt, and tie.
Women wore stylish, tastefully-restrained dresses. No one
dared wear open-toed shoes.
Did anyone welcome you
This was the friendliest church of any I have ever encountered!
The ushers, easily identified by blue silk ribbons under their
name badges and atop their pin-striped suits, were chatty
and helpful. A lady in the welcome center was eager to assist
me when I identified myself as a first-time visitor. Additionally,
many persons extended a handshake before, during and after
the service and personally welcomed us as visitors to their
Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfortable, if not indulgent. The sanctuary has been
refurbished and included slick new wooden benches that feature
plenty of leg room and red velvet cushions to sit upon. Further,
as the pews rest upon a slightly sloped marble floor, the
sight lines were excellent.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
One word: electric. People arrived by the droves through each
of the sanctuaryís five entrances. The pews filled up quickly.
The near-capacity crowd certainly generated pre-service excitement
and expectation. There was no pre-service music, but a lot
of visiting, embracing and handshaking going on.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome to Park Cities Presbyterian
Church." This by the senior pastor, appropriately robed
in an all-black Geneva frock.
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
The Presbyterian Hymnal and a service sheet.
What musical instruments
The new pipe organ, an opus of Schoenstein & Co. of San
Francisco, and a Steinway piano.
Did anything distract
Most distractions were positive ones: the morning sun shining
through the magnificent stained glass windows, which in turn
flooded the space with blotches of blue and crimson. The presence
of well-dressed and mannered children. A brilliantly lit and
impeccably clean and maintained sanctuary. Parishioners who
were genuinely excited to be coming to worship. One minor
distraction was the gentleman seated ahead of us who had to
exit and return no less than three times during the service.
We wished he had chosen a seat by the aisle to facilitate
his frequent departures and re-entrances. There was also a
brief microphone glitch during the opening prayer.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The robed choir processed into a congregation of thousands
singing "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty" (to
the customary tune of Nicea) in full-voiced four-part
harmony. It was a moment I shall not soon forget. The children's
choir then called us to worship via a lush setting of Psalm
131 ("My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty").
But the liturgy itself detoured somewhat confusingly into
a laundry list of miscellaneous announcements and commercials
for church activities. However, once we were finally asked
to greet each other in peace, things quickly settled down
to dignified Presbyterian, with style and spirit.
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
4 This was, sad to say, the point in the service where
things began to fall apart. The expository sermon offered
little hope or grace. I was mostly surprised at the "Christ
against culture" undertone: we were encouraged more to
fight the evil government and our perverse culture rather
than to engage and transform it for Godís glory. The presidential
election results had just been announced, and it seemed clear
that this was a very disappointed Republican congregation.
I could not help but wonder what kind of sermon would have
been preached had John McCain been elected president instead
of Barack Obama.
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
The associate pastor's text was 1 Peter 2, where Peter reminds
us to subject ourselves to governmental institutions ever
mindful that our true citizenship is in heaven. The associate
pastor urged us (at least three times) to obey "evil
government and its pagan leaders" while keeping our eyes
on the heavenly prize awaiting us.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
Without a doubt, the childrenís choir. As their sweet tones
died away, my companion whispered, "Can we go now? We've
had church!" After this, Iíd say the magnificent singing
of hymns in four-part harmony (one praise song was a notable
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The sermon was anti-climatic (see above), as already stated.
Further, I was appalled that on the Sunday after the national
election not only was our new president not prayed for, but
his name was never even once mentioned the entire hour.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Many stayed and attempted to enjoy the organ postlude; just
as many stayed and tried to shout over it. We enjoyed the
entirety of the postlude, but as the next service was about
to commence, we were politely asked to carry our conversation
into the vestibule.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
Scalded and burnt. Presumably the coffee had been prepared
very early that morning and was decidedly past its Best By
date. I opted instead for a glass of fresh, iced water and
used silver tongs to plop a fresh lemon wedge into my drink
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
8 I'd be curious to know whether future sermons would
preach the full counsel of the gospel, including such fundamental
themes as grace, hope, and the presence of Godís glory in
every area of life or if there'd be more talk of our
"evil government and pagan leaders." But even if
that didnít pull me in, Iíd return just to hear that childrenís
choir sing again.
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
Oh yes. And thrilled to be part of a vibrant congregation
committed to growth through traditional worship, beautifully
rendered. More churches could learn from their decided and
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
A beautiful service of praise interrupted by "commercials"
smack dab in the middle of it all.