Our Saviour, Atlanta, GA

Our Saviour, Atlanta, Georgia, USA


Info and corrections →

Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Our Saviour
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 8 July 2012, 11:00am

The building

The brick building is built around a garden courtyard with exterior stairs to a lower level and a chapel of Our Lady. A bell tower in the courtyard bears a sign stating regular times for the Angelus. The structures look quite comfortable, as if they evolved over a period of time, but the whole is in harmony with itself.

The church

The parish community appears active through various guilds named after particular saints and others. There are guilds of St Luke for the ailing; St Vincent de Paul for persons outside the parish; St Joseph the Carpenter for physical plant maintenance; St Fiacre for the gardens; and St Cyril of Jerusalem to minister to newcomers seeking a sacramental life. The Henry VIII Dinner Guild puts on monthly church lunches and special receptions. Worship is of great importance to the community. There is some devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary evidenced by a Hail Mary prayed just before the dismissal.

The neighborhood

The Virginia Highland neighborhood of Atlanta appears to be an upscale residential and commercial area with some trendy shops and restaurants. It looks like a lovely place to spend some time and a lot of money.

The cast

The Revd John Bolton, priest-in-charge, was celebrant and preacher. The Revd Daniel Dice, curate, served as deacon for the celebration. Daniel Pyle, Mus.D., was organist and choir director.

What was the name of the service?

Solemn Eucharist with Healing Liturgy

How full was the building?

Some 50 people were in the nave.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Several people in the church courtyard garden said "Good morning." People smiled and nodded hello in the church.

Was your pew comfortable?

The standard wooden pew with fold-down kneeler was comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quietly reverent.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"We have thought on thy steadfast love, O God, in the midst of thy temple." During the entrance procession, the very competent thurifer handled his 360 degree swings naturally and without affectation.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The Hymnal 1982 and a separate handout of Franz Peter Schuberts Deutsche Messe arranged by Richard Proulx and revised by Daniel Pyle. Prayer Book portions of the service were in the service leaflet.

What musical instruments were played?

The 23-rank pipe organ, built by Rieger of Vienna for the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and rebuilt by Redman of Fort Worth, Texas.

Did anything distract you?

I was a little distracted by the tat on display. Several choir members were wearing academic hoods, and the women singers were wearing black yarmulke type head coverings. The celebrant was in a fiddleback chasuble and both deacon and subdeacon appeared to be wearing tunicles. I didnt notice any maniples, but birettas were conspicuously absent.

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

It was wonderfully formal. I could not call it stiff, but it was perfectly lovely. The liturgical choreography was delightful without being fussy. Every person and object censed got proper attention and the correct number of swings. The healing liturgy (litany, collect, confession and absolution, laying on of hands) took place immediately after the sermon for eight or nine individuals who presented themselves at the altar rail.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

13 minutes.

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

7 – Father Bolton had an easy style of preaching and a friendly sense of humor.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The sermon text was Marks story of Jesus teaching in the synagogue in his hometown. The Word of Life doesnt cease to be valid simply because it comes from a familiar source. The hearers of Jesus' words in the synagogue knew Jesus parents and siblings. What could this local know?

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The elevation. The tableau of the celebrant, deacon and subdeacon standing at the altar, covering and uncovering, censing, etc. was beautiful. Heavenly, too, was the music throughout the celebration. The congregation, assisted by the choir and the organist, sang nine hymns, the mass setting, and the minor propers. The people participated fully because the written music was available for them either in the hymnal or in the service bulletin.

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

The organist had the unfortunate habit of playing the introduction of hymns appreciably faster than what he played while the people were singing. Also, in his sermon, Father Bolton shared with us his opinion that it is a truth plainly taught in scripture that Mary had other children. While I wasnt shocked that a person may hold this opinion, I was disappointed to hear it stated in a sermon.

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

I stayed around for at least 15 minutes talking with a member of the choir, another parishioner, the clergy, and the thurifer. Each invited me to coffee in Pettway Hall. However ...

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

I had another appointment and so could not stay for the coffee hour.

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

10 – I felt that I had come home. When I converted to Anglicanism in college, my parish was one of rich ceremony. I felt like the Church of Our Saviour was the part of the church into I was baptized and confirmed.

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


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

The elevation of the Sacrament.

Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you’d like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.

Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Comments and corrections

To comment, please scroll to the end of this report and add your thoughts there. To send us factual corrections, please contact us. We also discuss reports on our Ecclesiantics bulletin board.

© Ship of Fools