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2464: All Saints, Ft Lauderdale, Florida, USA
All Saints, Ft Lauderdale (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Liturgist.
The church: All Saints, Ft Lauderdale, Florida, USA.
Denomination: The Episcopal Church, Diocese of Southeast Florida. They are part of the New River Regional Ministry.
The building: Opened in 1951, the building might be described as combining traditional and contemporary idioms. There is a central free-standing altar (unusual at the time of building), clear glass in the aisles but stained glass with images of several saints in the clerestory – again in a modern style, but recognizably drawn from more traditional sources. I found the appearance and atmosphere conducive to worship. Clearly the building has been very well cared for.
The church: The parish had just celebrated its centennial when we were there, and its history includes the planting of four other churches in the area. One of these is associated with All Saints in an active ministry to the community.
The neighborhood: The church is located on the New River, which flows through the city, and there is a park-like area, including a patio, going from the church itself to the river.
The cast: The celebrant was listed as the rector, the Revd Sherod Mallow, but the Revd Ron Hoover, chaplain to a nearby rehab center and associated with the parish, did the actual consecration. The rector did most of the heavy lifting and also was the preacher. Daniel Copher, Ph.D., organist and choirmaster, was in charge of the music. Other assistants included two vergers, several acolytes and other lay ministers, and a seventeen member adult volunteer choir (with, unusually, ten men to seven women).
The date & time: November 18, 2012, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Sunday Eucharist.

How full was the building?
About three-quarters full; maybe 150 or so.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Mrs Liturgist and I arrived, with another friend, about an hour early. There were a few people in the narthex who immediately greeted us, found a place for us to stash our baggage (we had just come from a cruise and were flying home in the afternoon), and directed us to the patio where coffee and iced tea were being served. We were greeted again as we moved into the church for the service. This is one of the most welcoming churches we have visited.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. It was a well designed pew with a cushion and enough space between pews to stretch a bit and to kneel comfortably.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The building was fairly well filled when the prelude began, and remained fairly quiet as people entered.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The hymns were from the Hymnal 1982 and most of the other texts were printed in the bulletin. The service was taken from the Prayer Book 1979.

What musical instruments were played?
Only the organ – nothing more could really have been needed or desired.

Did anything distract you?
There were a number of small distractions, including: the preacher's unwillingness to use the pulpit (I know it has become common, but with a sizable congregation it suggests to me a lack of regard for the message); a window of Samuel Seabury, the first American Episcopal bishop, showing him with crosier (which he seems never to have used) but without mitre (which he did use); and a somewhat unconventional distribution of roles among the clergy. All of these, however, were outweighed by the solid devotional atmosphere of the place.

All Saints, Ft Lauderdale (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was both formal and enthusiastic, with the congregation singing everything except the choir anthems, and taking full part in the service.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Father Mallow spoke extemporaneously and sometimes tended to ramble a bit. (The Liturgist must admit to the same tendency, so this should not be taken as a negative!) His speaking voice was clear and easily heard. He did, however, twice say "apocalypse" (revelation of that which is hidden) when he obviously meant "eschaton" (judgment day).

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon spoke of the end-times as it appears in the scriptures read just before Advent. He concluded with the affirmation taken from Psalm 16 (used as the gradual that day), "Save me, O God, for I take refuge in you."

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The beauty of the building, the fine and well-played organ, the quality of the singing (both by choir and people)and the carefulness of the liturgy all helped draw us toward heaven.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
None of the distractions I noted would qualify for that, but getting there was a problem. I had located the church via the Internet before we went, but foolishly assumed that any taxi-driver's GPS would get us there even though the street was off the grid. It did not work that way. If there is a next time, I'll be sure to print out directions first!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not a chance. We were quickly invited back to the patio, where we found a very satisfying cold buffet lunch.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was coffee, but most people seemed to elect cold drinks (tea and juices), which were served in plastic tumblers. The food, too, was offered on plastic ware, and everything was very good.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – We do occasionally take cruises out of Ft Lauderdale, though this was the first time we had been there on a Sunday. If that happens again, we would certainly return to All Saints. If we ever settled there, it would certainly be at the top of our list.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The music and the appearance of the church (and yes, I know that makes two, but they went together).
 
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