Mystery Worshipper: Saint Hedrin
Church: Church of the Risen Lord
Location: University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, Quezon City, the Philippines
Date of visit: Sunday, 19 November 2006, 10:00am
This light, airy, modern structure was designed by Cesar H. Concio, the much-respected Filipino architect responsible for the National Government Centre and several of the University's buildings. Steep arches form the ribs of the sanctuary, with louvres for natural ventilation and wide glass panes for natural lighting. The simple, clean lines allow for a more austere impact. Just the right mix of solemnity and serenity. The building is a popular venue for weddings.
The congregation began as a movement among Protestant students of the University of the Philippines. At present, the church continues to serve the spiritual needs of University students and faculty. They are host to several ministries on campus and maintain an adequate theological library in the church hall.
The Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines was first occupied in 1947. Most of the infrastructure dates from the 1950s, with lots of greenery to break the urban grind. Across the street from the church is the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, the Roman Catholic chaplaincy. Nearby, one will find residences for foreign faculty members as well as Ikeda Hall, one of the posher dining spots on campus.
The Rev. Kevin Alamag, pastor. Serving as liturgist was Edilberto Cabalfin, council chairman. Froilan Bacungan, former dean of the University's College of Law and a founding member of the church, preached the sermon.
What was the name of the service?Church of the Risen Lord Ecumenical Ministry 59th Anniversary
How full was the building?
Packed on the inside, with an overflow into the front yard (a few rows of extra seating but still under the shade). Luckily I managed to get a seat indoors.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I arrived very late, at the moment the peace was being passed. But still an usher greeted me, handed me the order of worship, and directed me to a pew right under the loft.
Was your pew comfortable?
My pew was a standard wooden pew with squared ends but no arm rests. All of them were plain, varnished affairs that offered typical seating comfort but lacked kneeling pads. Those seated outside were on white stackable monobloc chairs.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I arrived too late to experience it, but I can only imagine that the atmosphere was buzzing with activity, given the festive mood of the day.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
(As given in the order of worship) "Come, people of God. Let us celebrate the Lord's faithfulness to us as a community."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The order of worship included the lyrics of the hymns used in the service. There were New International Version Bibles in the pews.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano. Also, a small chamber orchestra (which I thought at first was canned music) accompanied the choir in selections from Handel's Messiah.
Did anything distract you?
Birds were spotted flying in and out of the sanctuary. Oh, yes, and the obligatory mobile phones going off in odd moments. However, the biggest distraction was me wondering whether the music was canned or live.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was festive but not happy-clappy, formal but not stiff. It was a study in contrasts, given the nature of the service.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – For an 80 year old, Dean Bacungan was able to deliver. One has to give the old man lots of credit for his delivery, despite an occasional cough here and there, a somewhat shaky voice, and a slight accent. He sprinkled his sermon with bits of wisdom and humour in the right places, to which the congregation responded well.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Dean Bacungan offered a retrospective of the church, from its humble beginnings as the University's Christian youth movement in 1947, through his personal involvement as president of the same, and culminating in how God has been gracious in keeping the church alive and letting it grow as a presence in the community.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
It has got to be the singing! The choir and musicians definitely did justice to their rendering of Messiah excerpts. It was stirring and glorious for me, and I was almost moved to tears by heavenly voices!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The liturgist led the congregation in reading the lessons. Either the congregation read too fast, with the liturgist lagging behind, or the liturgist raced ahead of them, leaving them to catch up as they were able. The overall effect was a sad cacophony.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I knew that my uncle would be at the service, and I looked all over for him in that little sea of humanity, but in vain.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was a buffet luncheon in the garden, but I couldn't stay for that. I had to get myself over to Ikeda Hall, where another of my uncles was celebrating his birthday. There, I had a non-alcoholic punch with my meal.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – I'd make it my regular if I lived there and were enrolled in the University.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Handel's Messiah being integrated into the service's fabric, and an octogenarian who managed a good sermon.