Mystery Worshipper: Fading Lights
Location: Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 9 August 2009, 10:30am
The building is amazing. Dating from 1912, it is in the Arts and Crafts Period Revival style and features a distinctive bell tower and Gothic arched stained glass window. The interior is rich in hand-carved finishings and light fixtures. A parish hall was added in 1927, with malpais rock construction and Gothic arched windows matching the sanctuary. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
They seem to have a very good outreach to the community. I was surprised to see how extensive their service schedule was. Two Sunday eucharists as well as a Saturday afternoon eucharist are celebrated. The church also has morning and evening prayer every day.
Flagstaff is an amazing city. It is 7000 feet up in the mountains of Arizona. No cactus or 100 degree Fahrenheit temperatures here! It is a small city with a large university. Northern Arizona University dominates the city and historic Route 66 runs right through the center of town. Stunning mountain views, blue skies, and low humidity make Flagstaff one of the most attractive cities I've ever been to. Lowell Observatory, one of the world's foremost astronomical observatories, is located in Flagstaff, where it benefits from the clean air and low ambient light pollution.
I'll assume the Revd Robert Linder, assistant clergy, was the celebrant, as he is the only male listed among the clergy staff. He was assisted by the Revd Deacon Janetta Beaumont. The Revd Jan James, rector, preached. I was surprised to see a verger in the procession.
What was the name of the service?Holy Eucharist
How full was the building?
Fairly full. I'd say the church could seat between 100-125 people and there were at least 75 people in the congregation.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. The Mystery Worshiper arrived early enough to park right in front of the church! The few people who were there when I arrived couldn't help but notice me taking pictures of the church. A few people introduced themselves. The two red doors opened to a small lobby with service bulletins available. There was a book for visitors to sign. There were also some folders for visitors containing some information about the Episcopal Church.
Was your pew comfortable?
The building is almost 100 years old. The pew was fine for a short service, but the the wooden floor of the church squeaked loudly. The was a large "thud" when people put down their kneelers.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was a great deal of noise – audible conversations, people greeting each other as they arrived.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Book of Common Prayer 1979, the Hymnal 1982, and the Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, were in my pew. There seemed to be other Bibles in the pews in front of me. The whole service was printed in a bulletin, but the church announced they were going to reduce the size of their bulletin and have people use the Prayer Book in order to save paper. There was also a supplemental hymnal stuffed behind the Hymnal 1982 which kept flying out of the binding – annoying!
What musical instruments were played?
A decent pipe organ.
Did anything distract you?
The loud squeaking of floors when people moved around. Also, there was a very large windmill in front of the altar. The church doesn't have air conditioning so the windows were open. I could hear outside noise during the service. I also found it odd that the deacon carried the gospel book with only one hand.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
About as low church as you'll find in this diocese. The entire service was spoken and there was no incense. Interestingly enough, bells were rung during the Sanctus, but they seemed to be rung randomly.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The rector spoke with a distinctive Southern accent. She used notes, which were visible from the pulpit.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon focused mainly on the Old Testament lesson. This year in the lectionary spends a lot of time on King David and she mainly focused on his story.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The beauty of the building. Arizona isn't known for great architecture, but this 1912 building belies that myth. Living in the desert as I do, I enjoyed being in a church without a loud air conditioner running in the background.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The peace. Everyone came out to shake hands, including the clergy, verger, and acolytes. It went on forever!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No chance whatsoever. Plenty of people asked me where I was from. It seems like most of the congregation are very familiar with the other churches in the diocese.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I stuck to water as I'd had several cups of coffee at my hotel prior to the service. The coffee was fairly traded.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I love the extensive service schedule the church offers. The small size of the church does make me wonder how they handle Christmas and Easter. I'm guessing they have multiple services as you're not getting 200 people inside the church.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. Seeing the beauty of Flagstaff and this building made it a perfect Sunday morning.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
I don't think this church has been Mystery Worshipped before, but they seem to be used to visitors taking pictures of the church.