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3086: St Andrew's, Denver, Colorado, USA
St Andrew's, Denver, CO (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Paterfamilias.
The church: St Andrew's, Denver, Colorado, USA.
Denomination: The Episcopal Church, Diocese of Colorado (they call themselves the Episcopal Church in Colorado).
The building: A small Gothic Revival structure with brick exterior designed by the noted architect Ralph Adams Cram, who also designed St Thomas Church in New York City and Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. It was completed in 1909. There is a beautiful tapestry of five panels representing scenes from the baptism of Christ to the day of Pentecost on the east wall, with a simple rose window above it. There is a stunning crucifix hanging from the ceiling over the altar. Choir and organ are in the rear of the church.
The church: Founded in 1874 as Trinity Memorial Chapel, St Andrew's is Denver's second oldest Episcopal church. It changed its name to St Andrew's in 1917. Three characteristics seem to have been a part of its life since its founding: a commitment to Anglo-Catholic liturgy, to social justice, and to excellence in music (in addition to a fine choral program at St Andrew's, the parish hosts the St Martin's Chamber Choir). The bulletin listed several events for the coming week, including Spookghetti Dinner and Show (a fund raiser to kick off the Halloween weekend) and Moveable Feasts (parish dinners). Plans are underway to set aside part of their parking lot for the Tiny House Project, which provides sleeping quarters and common rooms, plus counseling services, for the homeless. There are three masses each Sunday and, from September to May, evensong each Thursday evening. They have a Sunday evening service of chant, meditation, prayer and communion called Still Point, which is the service I attended.
The neighborhood: The church is on the edge of Denver's downtown, within walking distance of the Colorado Rockies stadium, restaurants, historic homes, and small businesses.
The cast: The Revd Elizabeth P. Randall, rector, was celebrant and preacher. None of the other participants was identified, but there was one gentleman who served as lector and chalice bearer, and a male chant choir of three. One of these three also provided a piano prelude and postlude.
The date & time: Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, October 23, 2016, 5.30pm.

What was the name of the service?
Still Point. The name is taken from TS Eliot's poem "Burnt Norton" from his Four Quartets: "At the still point of the turning world ... there the dance is ... the release from action and suffering."

How full was the building?
It's a small church, seating only about 170, but there were only about a dozen of us, including choir, celebrant, and lector.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The celebrant welcomed me briefly and quietly, in keeping with the meditative nature of this service.

Was your pew comfortable?
Chairs had been set up in the front of the nave, and mine was quite comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet, contemplative.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Peace on each one who comes in need; Peace on each one who comes in joy."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A carefully-designed service leaflet containing texts from a variety of sources.

What musical instruments were played?
An upright piano for the prelude and postlude only; all music within the service was chanted without accompaniment.

Did anything distract you?
The juxtaposition of Gregorian chant and the Emily Dickinson poem that served as the first reading was a bit jarring at first.

St Andrew's, Denver, CO (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service combined poetry, some texts from the Iona Community, readings from the New Zealand Prayer Book, and texts that I gather were newly composed for this service. Emily Dickinson's "I'm Nobody! Who are you?" served as the first reading. There was much unaccompanied plainsong, some of it sung by the choir of three, some of it simple enough for the congregation to sing. The liturgy of the word consisted of the Emily Dickinson poem, a chanted psalm in response, and the gospel. Following the homily, there was ten minutes of silent reflection, in which the congregation were invited to remain in their seats or visit stations with icons and candles at the back of the church. The eucharistic prayer seems to have been especially written for this service; it was quite nice, with a weak oblation and strong epiclesis.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Approximately 7 minutes (no way discretely to check my watch in such a small gathering).

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – A very quiet, reflective presentation, perfect for this sort of service.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The rector preached on the gospel for the day: Luke 18:9-14 (the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee). She noted that we can learn from both of these: the Pharisee's lack of humility is perhaps more obvious, but the tax collector also seems to be shutting himself off from God's grace. She noted that the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner") probably grew out of this gospel reading.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The chant was beautifully done. And the rector was a model presider, never calling attention to herself, quietly going about her role of leading a community in prayer.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
One curious feature of the chant, though: there was an antiphon followed by the introit, but the antiphon was not repeated after the introit as you would expect. It's probably a bit graceless of me to harp on this, given how beautifully everything else was chanted.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The rector was waiting at the exit to greet people; we chatted briefly.

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)?
10 – I would love to return with some regularity to this beautiful Sunday evening service. However, if I were to move to Denver, I would probably look for a Lutheran parish for regular Sunday morning attendance.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it certainly did.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
"I'm Nobody! Who are you?"
 
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