St Clement of Rome, Sun City, AZ (Exterior)

St Clement of Rome, Sun City, Arizona, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Clement of Rome
Location: Sun City, Arizona, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 28 September 2014, 11:00am

The building

A modern brick structure with campanile. The interior is spacious though a bit on the dark side, as windows are scarce. A large representation of the resurrected Christ with the Holy Spirit is on the wall in back of the altar. Choir seating is to the right; the Blessed Sacrament altar to the left.

The church

They have a Men's Club and support a chapter of the Knights of Columbus. They also have a Women's Guild and a weekly bingo game. There are three masses each Sunday plus the Saturday vigil mass. Matins is said after mass each weekday.

The neighborhood

Sun City is a retirement community to the northwest of Phoenix. The church is on Del Webb Boulevard amid detached and semi-detached houses. A Presbyterian church and a Missouri Synod Lutheran church are its immediate neighbors.

The cast

The Revd John Slobig, pastor, plus two unnamed acolytes. Paul Yoder, minister of music, presided at the piano and organ and led the singing.

What was the name of the service?

Sunday Mass.

How full was the building?

It's a large building and was about seven-eights full. Mostly an elderly crowd, in keeping with the demographics of Sun City, although there were grandchildren scattered about here and there.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

A gentleman holding a stack of bulletins looked at me as if he couldn't understand why I was standing in front of him. Finally he asked, "Do you want one of these?" and handed me a bulletin.

Was your pew comfortable?

A little on the severe side.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet as a tomb.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning, everyone."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Seasonal Missalette Worship Resource and the Gather Comprehensive hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?

Electronic organ and grand piano.

Did anything distract you?

I kept wondering if a large enclosed space above the choir seating area had originally been intended as a pipe chamber or if it was designed to enclose the speakers for the electronic organ right from the start. I noticed in the bulletin that one of the mass intentions for the week ahead is for Perry Como. I wondered if it was the singer or just a namesake - and if the singer, what his connection was to that church or to Sun City. Googling Perry Como, I see that he died in March 2001 in Florida, so I don't imagine that there is any connection.

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

A standard by-the-book low mass, celebrated with dignity but not with any degree of life, I didn't think. The servers were properly attired in cassock and surplice, the priest in eucharistic vestments. The music was mostly of the St Louis Jesuits school, and people sang with gusto. No bells, no incense, no chanting except for the Great Amen and the Lord's Prayer.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

8 minutes.

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

6 – Father read his sermon from notes. I would rather he had preached on the scripture readings for the day as opposed to the topic he chose.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

He said that if this were not Sunday, we would be celebrating the feast of St Wenceslaus. He then gave a brief summary of Wenceslaus' life. St Wenceslaus invites us to be holy. Is holiness still important today, or is it irrelevant? There is a need for believers to spread Christian principles - why do people reject them? Is it because they seem to run contrary to society's standards? No matter; we are called to embrace them anyway, even though we may be ridiculed and persecuted for it. The world may see us as outcasts, but God will remember us forever.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

I have mixed feelings about the St Louis Jesuits style of music. Some of the pieces are very pretty and rise to the level of memorable church music; others are pure pabulum. The music minister, Paul Yoder, did his best to bring life to these ditties, providing them with inspired accompaniments on both piano and organ. He succeeded with some, for example David Haas' setting for the psalm, Dan Schutte's "Here I Am, Lord" and James E. Moore's "Taste and See." But others - why name them? - remained pabulum.

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

Paul Yoder has a decent baritone voice but wobbled a bit and wasn't always on pitch as he landed on some of the higher notes. But I'll save the most hellish bit for last (see below).

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

People left as silently as they had arrived.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There was none.

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

5 – I can't put my finger on any one thing = the mass was celebrated with dignity but it seemed that this congregation lacks a life spirit. People came in, heard mass, and went back out without, it seemed, ever having "been there." Gertrude Stein would have said, "There's no there there." No visiting, no standing around talking, certainly no seeking out first-time visitors.

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


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

I'll remember the most hellish bit of all. I hadn't noticed this before, but during the recessional I saw that Father was wearing - wait for it - sockless sandals! And I don't think he was a monastic. Oh, the horror!

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