Our Lady of Tahoe, Zephyr Cove, Nevada, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Our Lady of Tahoe
Location: Zephyr Cove, Nevada, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 4 August 2019, 10:00am

The building

Our Lady of Tahoe's 1971 building shares the architectural style of the million dollar homes of the ski resort surrounding it. Yet it is distinctively a church, and would never be mistaken for a ski lodge. The most striking feature of the interior is the liturgically east wall, which is entirely glass. A remembrance garden features tall pines that form a natural reredos behind the altar. During mass, the congregation has a view of a large pietà sculpture and a mosaic icon of Padre Pio. And of the back deck of the condo on the next street.

The church

They have a large number of administrative, liturgical, educational and social groups, all documented on their website. I’ll just mention God for Grown-Ups, where (quoting from their website) ‘a meal is served, followed by a class and discussion about the catechism and church history;’ and WebTech, which encourages parishioners to get involved in building and maintaining the parish website. They have three Sunday masses plus the Saturday vigil mass, and one weekday mass except on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The neighborhood

Zephyr Cove is a tiny community on the border between Nevada and California on the east shore of Lake Tahoe. As such, it is a haven for the mobs that descend upon the area in search of the more hedonistic pursuits such as boating, camping, and other water-related activities. The luxury resort called the Cabins at Zephyr Cove, founded in the early 1900s, (quoting from the official Zephyr Cove website) ‘have been restored to retain their original architecture and character, while being beautifully equipped with modern conveniences … Our guests find the setting of Zephyr Cove to be a refreshing alternative to typical accommodations in more densely developed areas.’ The church building is on the road to one of the beaches; at times other than mass times, vacationers may park in the church's lot for a fee.

The cast

The procession consisted of adult parishioners: the crucifer, who doubled as an altar server; and two readers – and, of course, the priest. There was also a cantor, who led the psalm and alleluia verse, and a pianist.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

How full was the building?

Three-quarters full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?


Was your pew comfortable?

Yes. Smooth and spacious with comfortable, properly positioned kneelers.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

There was a quiet buzz of people speaking to each other. And then someone canvassed people attempting to find two people willing to bring up the gifts. Shortly before the mass began, a parishioner made a long series of announcements regarding events happening in the parish and financial concerns regarding current stewardship.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

After the entrance hymn (the first three verses of ‘For the beauty of the earth’), the priest said, ‘Good morning, everyone.’ (A pause for the congregation's response.) Then: ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The missalette Breaking Bread 2019.

What musical instruments were played?

Electric piano.

Did anything distract you?

The ‘peace’ was somewhat extended, continuing almost all the way through the singing of the Agnus Dei. One very friendly parishioner left her pew and shook hands with the people at each end of her section of 15 or so pews. And they clapped at the end of the service! Please, no!

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

Middle-of-the-road Ordinary Form, with the only noticeable deviation from the rubrics being the extended ‘peace.’ The cantor sang well, but unlike many Catholic parishes, many of the people were singing too. Not everyone, but enough that a joyful noise was made unto the Lord. There were about six extraordinary ministers of holy communion, and the Sacrament was administered in both kinds.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

9 minutes.

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

8 — A solid exposition of the day’s gospel reading (Luke 12:13-21, the parable of the rich man with a bountiful harvest), as echoed in Paul’s admonition to the Colossians to ‘mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth.’

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

People may be rich, but life consists of much more than possessions. The laity are encouraged to give richly of their talents to, through, and beyond the Church. Christ, not possessions, gives us life. God's abundant harvest is available to us.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The pastor chanted many of the versicles, and the congregation sang the responses loudly and lustily.

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

I like to sing. But there was no obvious way for anyone but the regulars to find the music to the ordinary of the mass. About one-third of the way into the Gloria, I figured out that they were singing from the Mass of Spirit and Grace by the composer, educator and Paulist priest Ricky Manalo (#920 in Breaking Bread), but the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei were from something else, and I never found them before they were done.

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

Not much happened inside. Everyone walked out to the after-service coffee, which was on the walkway right outside the doors. We followed everyone out, and as we stood on the walkway drinking juice and coffee, one of the parishioners came over and struck up a pleasant conversation.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Donuts cut into small pieces, coffee (styrofoam cups), and juice (paper cups). Donation audibly requested by one of the parishioners standing near the table.

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

8 — I would gladly make another visit to a church where a well celebrated mass and heartfelt singing by the congregation seem to be the norm.

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

Yes. The message ‘you can't take it with you’ of the gospel, and its encouragement to share both tangible and intangible talents with our neighbors, is a message the world needs to hear more often.

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

The beautiful view of the pines in the remembrance garden – and wondering how often someone comes out onto the deck of the condo behind the garden in a bathing suit.

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