A fairly new building (1951) built in a sort of California Mission meets Neo Gothic style. It is the work of 20th century architect Philip H. Frohman, an authority on Gothic and Romanesque architecture; he was also architect of the Washington National Cathedral from 1944 until 1972. It's pleasant enough, but (though I hate to say it) more functional than architecturally impressive.
The cathedral calls itself "Cathedral 4 the City" and is apparently very active in social justice work in and around the city, with a particular focus on homelessness and cross border family issues. San Diego is on the Mexican border, with the vast city of Tijuana just a short drive away. The cathedral also goes out of its way to welcome members of the gay community.
San Diego itself is a fascinating though not particularly large city. It is a relaxed place, with weather said to be the most temperate and pleasant of anywhere in the continental United States. Life there is tied closely to the Pacific Ocean both through its large US Naval Base as well as its world class surfing community. St Paul's is in a quiet residential neighborhood just minutes from the city center.
The Very Revd Penny Bridges, dean; the Revd Canon Anne Chisham, canon for pastoral care; the Revd Jeff Martinhauk.
What was the name of the service?Holy Eucharist, Rite II (Spoken).
How full was the building?
The building was not particularly full around 50 people but this was the earlier service so this was to be expected.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes indeed. We were given a broad smile and a "Good morning," said with feeling, as we were handed the service sheet.
Was your pew comfortable?
Not too bad wooden pews with plenty of legroom.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and reserved.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Bless the Lord, who forgives all our sins."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Nothing other than the service sheet was used, though there was a copy of the Hymnal 1982 for use in later services.
What musical instruments were played?
None. This was a service without music. We were told afterward that the cathedral is famed for its music and weekly free organ concerts. But due to jet lag we were awake well before dawn, so we couldn't really hold out till 10.30am.
Did anything distract you?
One particularly loud cell phone ringing during prayers.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Considering this is Southern California, it was by local standards stiffish upper-lip and traditional.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
I failed to remember to check my watch at the end of the sermon, but I believe it was around 12 to 14 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Dean Penny Bridges' sermon was clearly spoken, well paced, and delivered with a distinct English accent that fit the mood perfectly. It was more upbeat and enjoyable than the summary probably makes it sound!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon focused on our human obsession with the randomness of life and death, along with our fear of dying suddenly and unprepared. In Lent we walk on particularly holy ground. This helps us to remember what is truly important and what is not. Look for the "burning bushes" in our life, and remember that today is all we really have to work with. There is no knowing what tomorrow may bring.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
It was good to hear everyone in the cathedral clearly and boldly recite (and not, as is so often the case, mumble) the Nicene Creed and the Lord's Prayer.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I wanted to send a certain somebody to the "other place" when their cell phone began to ring!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nobody approached us directly, but we followed the others out into the courtyard. There we mingled and chatted for a while with a number of lovely people. A pleasant ending to the service.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No drinks or snacks, but my family and I were each given coffee mugs to take home. I have to say that it was a little odd when the lady reached beneath the table and produced them. Nevertheless, I was happy to receive mine, as oddly there never seem to be enough mugs in our kitchen cupboard at home. My wife later explained to me that she stores away any mugs that she considers to be "excessive" a move that I also consider to be a little odd, but that's something I think it best not to pursue.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I would certainly consider this as my regular church were I lucky enough to live in sunny San Diego. Vague, I know, but all I can say is that this seemed a really lovely church community.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it did, and I look forward to attending again on a future visit to the city.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The coffee mugs for some reason I really wasn't expecting to walk away with a free gift after the service.