Mystery Worshipper: Preacher's Kid
Church: St Agatha's
Location: DeFuniak Springs, Florida, USA
Date of visit: Wednesday, 13 March 2013, 6:00pm
The church, built in 1895, is Carpenter Gothic, the style of many small churches built about the same time in northwest Florida. It seats approximately 50 people and is the home of the only true pipe organ in Walton County. The vicarage, built in 1889, is located next door and is one of two identical frame Florida vernacular houses that originally stood side by side (the other having since been moved to a different location). The second floor serves as the private quarters of the vicar and family, while the first floor rooms and kitchen are shared with the congregation, who use them as the parish hall.
The area has a strong Scots heritage and so is predominantly Presbyterian. Historically, St Agathas has had a small congregation (the parish was founded in 1890 with only three families) and at times has been without a vicar. Currently it is an "aided parish", classified as a mission. Notwithstanding its status, it has a core of faithful congregants who participate in the church and community and sponsor regular musical events, including concerts on the organ and visiting artists and choral groups.
DeFuniak Springs is a town in northwestern Florida, the area called the Panhandle. It was founded in 1881 by officials of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad as an "end of the line" resort community and named after the railroad's general manager. The principal settlers were Scots from Virginia and the Carolinas. The town was laid out in a carousel pattern surrounding Lake DeFuniak, thought to be one of only two lakes anywhere in the world that are perfectly round (the other being near Zurich, Switzerland). The entire central portion of the town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making it one of the largest historical districts in the nation. The old homes and commercial buildings have been beautifully restored, and the area is rich in cultural and recreational attractions.
The Revd Dr Sandra K. McLeod, vicar, officiated. She was assisted by Melinda Henderson, sub-deacon, and Ms Alex Alexander, reader.
What was the name of the service?Lenten Evening Prayer and Communion
How full was the building?
Other than the altar party there were exactly 12 people.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, and padded too.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There really was no pre-service atmosphere. Everyone arrived right on time and took their places with a minimum of conversation.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Yours is the day, O God, yours the night."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Book of Common Prayer.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
The service was foreshortened for time, and thus a number of pages were skipped. This led to "Turn to page so-and-so", something that really annoys the Kid.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
More to the right than the left. While not really "high" it certainly wasn't "happy clappy". Perhaps "broad" is an appropriate description. The peace was not passed except as a component of the final benediction: "Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord" but see below!
Exactly how long was the sermon?
There was no sermon.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
St Agatha's has an intimacy not found in many churches, and certainly not in large ones. This is an historic encounter with place and time .
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The vicar retired to the sacristy without pronouncing the benediction. One of the congregants had to fetch her back, whereupon she gave the benediction and we departed "to love and serve the Lord."
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We had Lenten supper provided by members of the parish.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was delightful, with everyone sharing experiences of the week with each other. There was potato soup, salad, and an array of deserts, the best of which was lemon icebox pie made from locally grown lemons.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – If I lived in the town it would have to be, because it is the only Episcopal church in the town.
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 intimacy of the service among a small group.