All Saints, Traverse City, MI (Exterior)

All Saints, Traverse City, Michigan, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: All Saints
Location: Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 12 July 2015, 10:00am

The building

A simple circa 1885 wooden structure not unlike many countryside churches, except it's also the oldest continuously used Jewish synagogue in all of Michigan. The small building, which faces geographic east, has an undercroft that is used for post-service coffee and receptions. The central room (I'm not sure of the Jewish term for sanctuary) has about 25 or 30 modern-style chairs and a raised railed rostrum similar to a chancel. There is even a Hebrew version of a reredos. For Christian worship, a single lectern stands on the north side of a small altar in the rostrum. There were no kneelers in the pews.

The church

A small but friendly congregation comprised mostly of theological refugees – most of whom are aging retirees – from the local Episcopal church, which is located through a parking lot and across the street. One cannot help but to draw parallels between this Anglican congregation meeting in a Jewish synagogue and the early Christians who would have also worshiped in synagogues.

The neighborhood

Traverse City, in the north-northwest portion of Michigan's lower peninsula, is a small city that is the tart cherry capital of the United States. Each July at cherry-picking time, the Cherry Festival attracts thousands of visitors. The region is also known for grapes and wine production. In 2012, the magazine US News and World Report listed Traverse City among the ten best retirement venues in the country. Perry Hannah, a lumber baron who is known as the founder of Traverse City, donated land surrounding the county courthouse for each of the prominent houses of faith. Today only the Episcopal and Baptist churches and the Jewish synagogue remain.

The cast

The Revd Dr Kurt J. Henle, rector, presided, wearing a black cassock, classic white surplice and green stole.

What was the name of the service?

Morning Prayer with Holy Communion

How full was the building?

About half-full – about 15 people, including the rector – though in all fairness the building is very small and 25 or 30 people would be a little too crowded for comfort.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Upon entering through the west doors, I was warmly greeted in the narthex by the rector. Not long after taking my seat, I was approached by the rector's wife, who also extended a personal welcome.

Was your pew comfortable?

Typical modern event style chair with light padding. The lack of kneelers was understandable considering this is a synagogue.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Extremely quiet.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Please stand."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

For morning prayer with holy communion (second and fourth Sundays), the liturgy is based on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer with some modern language taken from the Church of England's Book of Common Worship. For holy communion on the first and third Sundays it's the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. The Hymnal (1940) is used for all services.

What musical instruments were played?

For such a small congregation one might expect a said service, but All Saints prides itself on having wonderful music despite obvious limitations. This is a result of the rector being a former church music director. The church uses various computer software for organ music and choral music. I was somewhat skeptical of this method of musical accompaniment, but was thoroughly impressed with the quality.

Did anything distract you?

I was unsure how to receive communion, as it wasn't clear how it would be ministered without a proper altar rail and kneelers. The congregation ended up forming a semi-circle around the rostrum, where the rector ministered the bread and wine.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

This was a proper Anglican service that was almost perfectly executed. It was neither low church nor high church, but broad enough for most Anglicans except for Prayer Book Catholics.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

23 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

6 – The rector's deep background in academia was evident throughout his sermon, which was delivered from prepared remarks and was more in mode of a lecture from a professor than preacher. It was a little long, too.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

It was a classic Bible-based sermon that attempted to cover a few too many subjects dealing with the early church. He did also talk about the necessity for Christians to be willing to serve God as he leads them.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Truly how well everything was ordered and executed.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

Making eye contact with the congregants across from me while everyone stood in a semi-circle to receive communion.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

The rector's wife came over and addressed me by first name (she remembered!) and invited me to come back. But nobody invited me downstairs to the undercroft.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

I couldn't have stayed anyway, as I had another place to be.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

8 – I would very much attend this church, if I was ready to commit to leaving the Episcopal Church. I would, however, like to see more young congregants, as I had to have been the youngest by 25 or 30 years.

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


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

How well everything was done.

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