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2660: Foothills Christian Church, Glendale, Arizona, USA
Foorhills Christian Church, Glendale, AZ (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Old Rackensack.
The church: Foothills Christian Church, Glendale, Arizona, USA.
Denomination: The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada.
The building: A modern concrete structure with a tall tower resembling a smokestack. The interior is hexagonal, rather small, with a wooden communion table and lectern at the front. Stained glass on the east wall depicts an Arizona mountain landscape.
The church: They sponsor adult education, a youth group, and a children’s group called Worship and Wonder, as well as a Stephen ministry. They also contribute to a variety of local charities, most notably St Mary’s Food Bank.
The neighborhood: Glendale is a sprawling suburb slightly northwest of downtown Phoenix. The church is located in the northernmost reaches of the city on the wonderfully named Happy Valley Road at 39th Drive. The area is fairly wide open, with lots of undeveloped land as well as middle-class houses behind concrete noise barrier walls.
The cast: The Revd Andrew Shepherd, pastoral resident, led the intercessions, spoke the words of institution at communion, and gave the final blessing. Kaitlyn Neff was the worship leader. Katie Sexton read the scriptural passages and preached. Elder Joyce Holland extended the invitation to communion. Dale Lamphear, director of music, led the singing.
The date & time: Sunday, February 16, 2014, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
"The Blend" Worship Celebration.

How full was the building?
There were about 150 chairs and I counted about 100 people – mostly women, mostly middle aged to elderly. There was a scattering of younger families with children.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A first time visitors table was set up outside the door. The gentleman staffing it said hello and gave me a packet consisting of a canvas shopping bag and a leaflet about the church. Inside, I helped myself to a service bulletin, whereupon a gentleman rushed over and said, "That’s my job!" I took a seat in the back row, on the aisle, and after a minute or two another gentleman came over and hung his jacket on the back of the seat in front of me. I surmised that I was sitting in "his" seat, and so moved across the aisle. My surmise was correct, as he immediately moved his jacket to the back of the chair I had been occupying. I imagined him saying, "Hello, and good morning. I usually sit there, but you’re welcome to stay if you like." Alas, he said it only in my imagination. A lady came over and shook my hand with a "Good morning, how are you?" and then proceeded to work the room, saying the same thing to everyone.

Was your pew comfortable?
Red cushioned wooden chairs – comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Most people sat quietly, although the gentleman whose chair I had occupied engaged in a rather noisy conversation with two ladies. The musicians practiced rather noisily.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. Welcome to Foothills Christian Church."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Service leaflet; readings from scripture and words to the songs were projected. The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, and the Chalice Hymnal were on the chairs but were not used.

What musical instruments were played?
Digital keyboard, harmonica, four acoustic guitars, an electric bass guitar, drums. There were also three vocalists.

Foothills Christian Church, Glendale, AZ (Musicians)

Did anything distract you?
A car in the parking lot was the exact replica of mine. I was tempted to park next to it and observe the resulting confusion, but didn’t. A woman sitting in the front row looked just like my old fifth grade teacher – more about her later.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I’d call it Grand Ol’ Opry Meets Disciples of Christ. The music had a distinct Country & Western twang to it. After (or, I should say, during) the last of the three opening songs, Kaitlyn Neff recited a prayer. There were readings from scripture, intercessions, a sermon, and communion – which was pew style, with a broken loaf passed round on a plate (although we were expected to take a little crouton-like square from those that also were on the plate) followed by wee cuppies of grape juice.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – Katie Sexton made some good points, but some of her examples seemed to ramble on without being connected up – for example, she spoke of openly gay football players and women trapped in loveless marriages, but I couldn’t quite make out why.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
She remembers learning the song "This little light of mine" when she was small. What a powerful lesson that song conveys! We are challenged to do that which makes us uncomfortable: stand before others and shine. We are called to stand apart from the world and lead the world to God. We have all known hurt (maybe the gay football players and trapped women fit in here?) but we must believe that we can be what God calls us to be. Build up; do not tear down!

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
When Elder Joyce Holland stood up to invite us to communion, I realized she was the woman who I thought resembled my fifth grade teacher – whose name was … wait for it … Mrs Holland! "My" Mrs Holland had gone on to take recess in the Great Beyond many years ago, though.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Both Kaitlyn Neff, the worship leader, and Katie Sexton, the preacher, spoke with harsh, strident voices that were hard to understand and grating on the ears. They both need to look into elocution lessons. And wouldn’t you know it, but during the intercessions, just when Pastor Shepherd said, "And now we remember in silence those who need prayer," a cell phone went off with a particularly annoying ring tone!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Everyone left quickly. I was not in the mood to stand around.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 – They seem like a loving, caring congregation, but worship as hootenany is not my bag.

Foothills Christian Church, Glendale, AZ (Interior)

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
No.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Mrs Holland.
 
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