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2872: Phoenix Quaker Meeting, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Phoenix Quaker Meeting, Phoenix, AZ
Mystery Worshipper: Old Rackensack.
The church: Phoenix Quaker Meeting, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
Denomination: Religious Society of Friends (better known as Quakers), Intermountain Yearly Meeting.
The building: A plain white cinderblock structure. The inside is also plain, with white walls and a wood beamed ceiling with rotary fans. One of the walls is floor-to-ceiling clear glass windows that let in the only light there was (no artificial illumination).
The church: They have a First Day School, where children meet for 50 minutes before joining the adults’ meeting. Other than that I wasn’t able to discover anything about their activities.
The neighborhood: They are located on Glendale Avenue at 17th Street, a working class residential neighborhood with no particularly interesting features.
The cast: A woman named Jennifer (I believe she said) appeared to be in charge.
The date & time: Sunday, June 7, 2015, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Meeting for Worship.

How full was the building?
There were 12 to start – 4 men and 8 women. Eventually the number rose to 20 – 9 men and 11 women – with 4 children joining us toward the end. Everyone was casually dressed. I had expected to find people looking like they had just stepped off an oatmeal box, and had chosen a black shirt and black slacks for myself, but I was by far the most conservatively dressed person in the room.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Two women were standing outside the door, one of whom I recognized from my Spanish class. “Hello! I’m so glad you came!” she said. The other woman said, “Welcome. Is this your first time at a meeting? What is your name?”

Was your pew comfortable?
There was an assortment of chairs and one settee arranged in a circle. I chose a rocking chair – very comfortable, especially since my back has been bothering me lately.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Silent.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
The leader said, “Good morning. My name is Jennifer.” She went on to say some other things, but she was so soft-spoken I couldn’t understand anything she said.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None.

What musical instruments were played?
None.

Did anything distract you?
People coming in late were a distraction, as I had to keep revising my count. There was a large stain in the center of the carpet. A pleasant distraction was that traffic whizzing by out on Glendale Avenue made not a sound in the room, it was so well insulated.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
We sat in silence for one hour. Aside from the hum of the air conditioning unit, an occasional cough, and one sneeze (nobody said “God bless you”), there was no sound and nothing happened. Well, that’s not quite true – four people did speak briefly – two gentlemen and two ladies (see below).

Exactly how long was the sermon?
The people who spoke each did so for no longer than two minutes or so.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
N/A – Just about everyone who spoke was clear and easy to understand.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
[Gentleman no. 1] Non-violence by an individual is passive, but when a community practices non-violence it does so actively. Non-violence is a potent force that can work well or not work well. It takes wisdom to know when to use it. [Gentleman no. 2] We think of doves as a symbol of peace, but they can be very aggressive toward each other. Perhaps aggression is an innate trait not only in doves but in other species. [Lady no. 1] Understanding among people is important. When we work with others, we should not be over-determined to get things done to the point where we ignore the wishes of others and impose our wishes upon them. People know quite a surprising bit about their own needs. Understanding makes for better results. [Lady no. 2] We all need to work on using kind words vs cross words. Working on that might lead to our improving ourselves in other areas.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
That rocking chair really felt great on my sore back!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
At the end of the meeting (see below), Jennifer asked newcomers, or those who had been absent for an extended period, to stand up and state their name “if they so wished.” She stared directly at me as she said it, so I had to so wish. Grrr! I wasn’t expecting that at a Quaker meeting.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
At the end of the hour, almost on silent cue, everyone stood up and started circulating and shaking hands. The woman I know from Spanish class thanked me again for coming. Jennifer asked us to “share our sorrows and joys”, and several people made announcements. One woman read a poem that she had written in Italian about memories of her childhood in Bologna, and she cried while reading it.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
A potluck luncheon is held the first Sunday of each month (and today was the first Sunday). Jennifer invited everyone to stay, saying that tables would be set up. However, even though they seemed like a lovely bunch of people, I really wasn’t in the mood to engage with them and so I slipped out.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
0 – I really didn’t feel like I had been to church. The word “God” had not been mentioned, let alone Jesus or the Holy Spirit. No reading from scripture had been given. The four people who spoke said interesting things, but there was no follow-up or continuity of dialog or debate. I suppose this might have happened during the potluck luncheon, though.

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?
The woman who cried as she read her poem in Italian.
 
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