All Saints, Boise, Idaho, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: All Saints
Location: Boise, Idaho, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 12 July 2020, 10:00am

The building

Photo: Google Earth All Saints began as a mission on All Saints Day 1949, worshipping in a surplus chapel purchased from the Army Air Corps (as it was called then) and relocated to land owned by the diocese. They were elevated to parish status in 1954 and their present building dates from 1958. I would not call it a particularly attractive building from the outside – a wooden and brick rectangular box with a slightly pitched roof, hiding behind a clump of trees, with parish hall attached. What I could see of the interior looked better, with wood paneled walls, red carpeting, and a nicely appointed chancel area.

The church

They still see themselves as being called to mission work. Quoting from their website: ‘We are sent out weekly to love God and love our neighbor; to reach out to others in love because God first loved us.’ Their ministries and outreaches are listed on their website and include a prayer chain, eucharistic visitors, food bank and community garden. All activities are paused at the moment, but in normal times there are two eucharistic services each Sunday. At the moment, morning and evening prayer are live-streamed via Facebook, and other resources are also offered via Facebook, YouTube, and other social media.

The neighborhood

Boise (pronounced BOY-see, although locals like to chuckle over outsiders who tend to pronounce it BOY-zee) is the capital of Idaho and the state’s most populous city. Its name is thought to derive from the French la rivière boisée (the wooded river), which is what 19th century French Canadian fur trappers called the tree-lined stream that flows through the area. Today, downtown Boise is a pleasant enough place featuring several architectural landmarks and something of a restaurant and cultural scene. Boise is also the site of the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, the only one of its kind in the United States. Fans of the John Waters cult classic film Pink Flamingos will recall that Babs Johnson, the film’s protagonist (played by the late great drag queen Divine), relocated to Boise when life in Baltimore became, erm, too complicated for her. Judging from Google Earth, the neighborhood around the church looks to be made up of middle-class homes on pleasant shady lots.

The cast

The rector, vested in alb and green stole, joined by a server in alb, and a reader in untucked blue patterned sports shirt with matching blue patterned mask, black shorts, black socks and black shoes.

What was the name of the service?

Morning Prayer.

How full was the building?

The on-line counter registered 14 at its highest point.

Did anyone welcome you personally?


Was your pew comfortable?

My desk chair was just fine.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

I tuned in early but nothing was happening. I busied myself arranging my computer screen with their Facebook page, the service sheet, the draft MW report, Adobe PhotoShop, and the screen snapshot app I like to use. As service time approached and the video went live, a violinist and a violist began to play some stringy bits. The violinist was hidden behind the altar flowers, but the violist was visible in cassock and surplice. The rector entered wearing a mask, which he removed. He made some announcements, but was badly miked and I couldn’t understand a word he said.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

A service sheet was available for download in PDF format.

What musical instruments were played?

Violin and viola at the start of the service, and upright piano to accompany the violinist in three duets: one after the Creed, another after the collects, and a final duet as the recessional. There were no hymns or chanting, though, as this was a spoken service.

Did anything distract you?

The sound quality, or more specifically lack thereof, was a major distraction – as were the lector’s legs protruding from out of his black shorts.

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

Straightforward morning prayer from the Prayer Book. The rector and server remained seated behind their prie-dieux throughout the entire service, even for the gospel and sermon. I know they were mobile, as they walked perfectly well into the sanctuary at the start of the service.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

8 minutes.

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

1 — The rector read his sermon from a prepared text in a notebook he held open. To me, that is not the same as preaching.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

I know he was speaking about the day’s readings, but because of the poor microphone quality I didn’t understand a word he said!

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

They tried their best, the dears, to put on a dignified and moving service under difficult conditions. I appreciated the fact that the service was held in church, not in the rector’s study or a room of his house, and that the altar party were appropriately vested. (But if I were the lector, I would not have worn shorts, and certainly not black socks and black dress shoes with shorts. And I would have tucked my shirt in.) However …

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

Every video meant for public consumption needs to be supervised by a director and a sound technician. Had that been done here, the director would have seen to it that the violinist was not upstaged by the altar flowers, and that the microphones were close enough to the speakers’ mouths that what the speakers were saying could actually be understood. If it were not for the service sheet, I wouldn’t have had a clue as to what was being said! And during the duets, the violin was barely audible over the piano. Also, the video feed inexplicably froze during the collects, and a message stating ‘Sorry, we’re having trouble playing this video’ appeared on screen. The feed recovered itself during the intercessions, though, and remained stable for the duration of the service.

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

The video feed ended abruptly after the recessional, and I busied myself writing up this report.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?


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

6 — I doubt that business or pleasure will bring me to Boise, Idaho, after the pandemic has subsided, although as a John Waters fan I wouldn’t mind visiting Babs Johnson’s favorite haunts. Should I find myself in Boise, I would consider attending a service at All Saints. But due to the poor microphone quality and awkward staging of their on-line service, I would hesitate before viewing another one.

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


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

Sorry, I have to say it – the lector’s shorts and untucked shirt.

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