Holy Trinity, San Carlos, CA (Exterior)

Holy Trinity, San Carlos, California, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Holy Trinity
Location: San Carlos, California, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 6 July 2014, 10:15am

The building

Perched on the side of a hill, Holy Trinity Lutheran meets in a cozy A-frame with bold angles and simple ornamentation. Crosses and doves cut out of the wall behind the altar allow light to shine through in a stained glass effect. Underneath the sanctuary and in adjacent buildings are additional rooms and offices.

The church

The church was planted in 1947 and currently supports local ministries to low-income people, homeless people, and a retirement community, as well as a missionary in Russia. Topical forums and small groups meet regularly.

The neighborhood

San Carlos is situated at the northern tip of Silicon Valley, on the San Francisco Peninsula, about halfway between San Francisco and San Jose. The sunny hills immediately surrounding the church are covered with unassuming million dollar mid-century shacks.

The cast

The Revd Christian Jennert, pastor, led the service, assisted by an acolyte.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Communion Service with Childrens Time

How full was the building?

At the height of the service there were 46 in attendance, about 30 per cent of capacity. I witnessed a representative mix of older congregants and young families.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

A greeter and another person handing out programs welcomed me at the door. Three people during the peace noticed I was new and introduced themselves.

Was your pew comfortable?

It was a standard wooden pew, but more slippery than average.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

The organist played an introduction. People seemed to be attentively looking forward to the service.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning and welcome to Holy Trinity Lutheran on this Fourth Sunday of Pentecost."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version. Hymns were sung from Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ, played well but not showily, rather quietly in fact. Any louder would have drowned out the barely audible congregation. Pastor Jennert joined in now and then with an oboe (or was it a crumhorn?), flute and hand drum (but not all at once).

Did anything distract you?

This was probably the least distracting service Ive ever been in. The architecture encouraged everyone to focus on what was going on up front, and the church felt enclosed despite its exposed siting. Everyone was paying attention, including myself. If anything, what distracted me most was when Pastor Jennert first switched from singing to playing the melody on his whatever-it-was reed instrument.

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

It was a mix of 19th through 21st century hymns with some pleasantly novel liturgical settings. I was moved by the gathering hymn, "Light Dawns on a Weary World," inspired by verses from Isaiah. Pastor Jennert joyfully and clearly led the singing. I must have been the loudest person there after him.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

14 minutes.

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

4 – Pastor Jennert is a compelling speaker, but the sermon was poorly organized. Many of the topics addressed seemed unrelated to each other.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

One main topic was how, as an immigrant from Germany himself, Pastor Jennert was struck by recent events involving immigrant children in Los Angeles who are fleeing places of devastation, and certain activists shouting, "Send them back." He was reminded of Jesus saying, "Come to me." The Lutheran Church has programs that help unaccompanied migrant children; the Church must be the one to accompany them. As people of faith, we are reminded that among migrant children was Jesus Christ.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Pastor Jennert read the gospel animatedly. It brought welcome life and energy to the message.

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

It was the Independence Day weekend, and at the beginning of the service we were invited to nominate three of "those national songs that we often dont sing in church." One could do worse than "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "America the Beautiful," but I wasnt sure what to do with the unfamiliar hymn "God Bless Our Native Land," sung to the tune of God Save the Queen (oops, I mean America), with one verse ending "God bless the State!" Fortunately, Pastor Jennert followed the song with some light humor about the tunes familiarity and we carried on with the service. God bless us, every one!

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

I was approached by two people, who introduced themselves and some others to me. We talked easily for several minutes. Others also seemed to be enjoying the after-service fellowship rather than rushing home.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

I was impressed by the spread of homemade cookies, meat and cheese, fruit, coffee, and juice. Even better, the volunteer in charge knew who made the cookies, so I was able to ask about the ingredients.

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

6 – The church seems to be a relatively active and familial community.

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


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

They sometimes skipped the second or third verse of the hymns, and even though directions for which verses to sing were not printed or announced, I didnt hear anyone getting tripped up. I suspect everyone instinctively just followed Pastor Jennerts lead.

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