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|2292: St John's,
Savannah, Georgia, USA
Worshipper: Fluffy Bunny.
The church: St
John's, Savannah, Georgia, USA.
Episcopal Church, Diocese
The present building was designed in 1853 by the 19th century
gothicist Calvin Otis, noted for his many fine churches in
the northeast and midwest United States. It is a very impressive
Gothic Revival church with a large parish building to the
right and the priest's house nearby. Inside, the baroque high
altar is highly ornate. The reredos depicts a very impressive
Christ on the cross draped in expensive-looking ecclesiastical
clothing. A later annex houses a chapel dedicated to the Blessed
Virgin Mary, above which are the church office and choir rooms.
A 1950s school building was renovated and renamed Cranmer
Hall in 2004. St John's is also noted for its carillon of
bells, its organ by the Illinois firm of Wicks Organ Builders,
and some stained glass from the late 19th century.
The church: St
John's still does the old Anglican rite by the 1928 Prayer
Book, and one of the parishioners told us she travels 90 minutes
each way to enjoy the service every Sunday.
The neighborhood: Savannah
was Georgia's first capital, and its downtown area, rich in
architectural treasures, is numbered among the largest historical
landmark districts in the United States. A
statue of John Wesley graces one of the city's downtown squares.
Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of America,
was born in Savannah. St John's Church is in one of the many
green areas of Savannah, sitting to the west of Madison Square,
which contains several of the most important buildings in this
historic city. Neighbors include a Masonic temple and several
19th century southern mansions.
The cast: The
Revd Craig O'Brien, associate priest, presided in the absence
of the rector, who was away dedicating a library at the University
of the South. Brian J Taylor, DSM, organist and choirmaster,
was in charge of the music.
The date & time: Second
Sunday of Advent, December 4, 2011, 10.30am.
What was the name of
Sung Litany, Sung Eucharist and Sermon.
How full was the building?
About three-quarters full.
Did anyone welcome you
We were handed the litany sheet and the parish paper. We found
our own seats.
Was your pew comfortable?
There were rows of pews. Although there were no cushions,
they were surprisingly comfortable.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
It was very quiet. There was an almost inaudible murmur but
conversation was extremely limited. There was no organ music
before the service, which seemed strange to me and my small
group. There were very few latecomers.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
The priest went straight into the sung litany.
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
We were given a sheet of the sung litany so we were able to
follow it quite easily. In the pews were The Hymnal
and The 1928 Book of Common Prayer.
What musical instruments
The excellent organ looked very impressive. Dr Taylor made
it sound wonderful.
Did anything distract
We all commented afterwards on how very well dressed everyone
was. Obviously going to church was the big occasion and so
everyone dressed accordingly. We all felt a little drab, but
we were on holiday and luggage is limited. There were some
distracting hats on display. But the congregation were exceptionally
well behaved and there were no problems with distracting chatting
in the service or beeps of technology.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
We were holidaying with a friend, and she and I had both been
brought up very high-church. It was like we had gone back
in time. The words were the old ones we learnt as children.
There were no smells, but lots of servers (I think eight)
and bells during the service. There was a noticeable lack
of estrogen in the service apart from female members of the
choir. I was surprised to see flowers on the high altar in
Advent (although they were as close to purple as possible).
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
8 The Revd O'Brien spoke clearly and directly to the
congregation. He had notes but these did not intrude on his
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
It was based around hope. Advent promises the blessed hope
of everlasting life. Men desire knowledge. We find rest in
the contemplation of the Word. Hope leans on the power and
wisdom of God. Hope is not optimism. To hope we must direct
our thoughts to God, lift our hearts to God, and open our
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
It was so wonderful to hear again the old liturgy with which
my friend and I had grown up. The choir were lovely, and I
especially enjoyed the motet "Say unto them that fear
the Lord" by Everett Titcomb.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
At times I had difficulty hearing what was gong on. I am not
sure the priest was amplified, nor the readers. Mostly I could
understand what was being said, but occasionally it got a
bit "lost in translation". The choir's first outing
had a bit of an insecure start.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
In complete contrast to how we had been greeted on arrival,
as soon as the service finished we were immediately quizzed
as to who we were and where were we from. We were repeatedly
invited to join them for coffee in the parish rooms.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
It was not just coffee and tea, but hot appetizers and various
sweet cakes. We could have had lunch, never mind just a drink!
I cannot think of a church where we have been made so welcome
on our travels. Well done, St John's Church!
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
9 I would have to emigrate to do so though!
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely. We all left beaming from ear to ear and felt our
spiritual batteries had been well and truly regenerated.
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The fantastic warm welcome we received and the thrill of partaking
again in the old ritual.
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