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2903: St John the Divine, Tamuning, Guam
St John the Divine, Guam (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Meet and Right So to Do.
The church: St John the Divine, Tamuning, Guam.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in Micronesia. The Episcopal Church in Micronesia is a mission within Province VIII of the Episcopal Church under oversight of the Diocese of Hawai'i. It has four congregations: three on Guam and one on Saipan, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The building: It's typical of the architecturally drab early 1960s-style buildings that make one wonder what on earth the architects were thinking. Most of the buildings in Guam are rather plain concrete structures. The church itself looks like an umbrella. The interior is octagonal and stark save for a rather interesting treatment of the altar in front of clear glass windows marked by a cross in red. One might find the simplistic interior stunning if it wasn't so cluttered due to decades of haphazard, uninspired additions to the decor and furnishings. There were two trash cans between the altar and the east window in what would otherwise be the church's apse. A conference hall-style portable wooden lectern stood to the south of the altar with the original pulpit and epistle side lectern both in disuse.
The church: Very little information about the church is publicized on its website, although the announcements section of the service leaflet indicated that they are in the process of forming a youth group. They have one worship service each Sunday followed by Sunday school, and evening prayer on Wednesdays.
The neighborhood: Guam, located more than 3,000 miles west of Hawaii, is one of three United States territories in the Pacific. Guam is a key US military asset with a large military presence. The village of Tamuning, on the island's western shore midway between the northernmost and southernmost points, is the island's economic center. Guam International Airport is located here, as is Guam Memorial Hospital, the island's only civilian hospital. In addition to the military, tourists (especially from Japan) make up an important part of Guam's economy. The church is located off South Marine Corps Drive, the main highway in Guam. It is attached to one of the island's most prestigious private schools.
The cast: The Revd Irene Maliaman, vicar, and the Revd Deacon James Moore. The vicar wore a stole that was decorated with tropical leaves on top of a simple white alb.
The date & time: Sunday, August 9, 2015, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Worship.

How full was the building?
About 40 per cent full, with very few Caucasian Americans, which was somewhat surprising considering the large military presence on Guam.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
As I entered and sat down, the senior warden, who doubled as the pianist, welcomed me. The deacon and vicar also introduced themselves and were more than kind. Additionally, I was called out during the middle of the vicar's announcements – it's apparently part of this church's tradition of welcoming newcomers.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were pretty standard, although the kneelers, which had very little padding, were terribly uncomfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very jovial despite the service leaflet reminding congregants to be contemplative.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome and good morning."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Book of Common Prayer (1979) and the Hymnal (1982). Most of the liturgy was projected onto the walls, though many still used the Prayer Books. Two hymns were taken from an unknown supplemental hymnal referred to only as the "Brown Book" (it wasn't in my pew).

What musical instruments were played?
Piano, violin and tambourine.

Did anything distract you?
The view through the clear glass windows behind the altar of the Pacific and Tamuning's skyscraper hotels distracted this worshipper.

St John the Divine, Guam (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
This was on the extremely low end of the Anglican churchmanship spectrum. At least they still used the Book of Common Prayer as opposed to a home brew liturgy. Otherwise, it was pretty generic contemporary language Rite II. Notably, the confession of sin was omitted. The intercessions included two prayers: one that the Almighty would protect the religious liberty of clergy, and the other that society writ large might value life. I assumed these were code for traditional marriage and anti-abortion.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – The vicar read the sermon entirely from prepared text at a very fast pace that made it difficult to listen and digest.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Part of the church's ongoing multi-Sunday "Bread of Life" theme, it was largely about the mystery of the eucharistic sacrament. Honestly, however, I had a difficult time following along.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The happy-clappy recessional hymn, sung in a local language, that enforced the idea that we are a universal church.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Several young children, who clearly didn't understand the importance and solemnity of holy communion, running down the aisle toward their pew with the consecrated communion wafer in their hands and snacking on it as if it were a potato chip.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The vicar addressed me by name and warmly invited me to come again.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Didn't stay.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – I would want to visit again to see if this is the normal pattern of worship, but I would have a difficult time attending the church due to its extremely low churchmanship.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It made me appreciate the broadness of the Anglican Communion, notwithstanding all the craziness of the national Episcopal Church these days.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Praying for traditional marriage and against abortion in coded language.
 
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