First Presbyterian, Upland, California, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: First Presbyterian
Location: Upland, California, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 14 October 2018, 10:00am

The building

Typical Presbyterian. Conservative, bland, tan, ho hum, but definitely identifiable.

The church

They have a number of ministries. These include a men’s breakfast, a knitting and quilting bee, a homework club for elementary school students, and dinner on Wednesday evenings. The bulletin mentioned an upcoming Fathers and Daughters Winter Wonderland Ball. There is one worship service each Sunday.

The neighborhood

Upland is an eastern suburb of Los Angeles in what is known as the Inland Empire. Once a major agricultural area, the Inland Empire now consists primarily of bedroom communities for folk commuting into Los Angeles. The San Gabriel Mountains lie to the north of Upland and create a spectacular view (smog permitting). The San Gabriels’ highest peak, colloquially known as Mount Baldy, is especially noticeable. The church is in a standard middle-class neighborhood.

The cast

The senior pastor was the one who led the proceedings, but there were also a woman who led the worship, plus a variety of announcement speakers.

What was the name of the service?

Worship Service.

How full was the building?

Attendance was just over 200. Full but not jammed. Plenty of room. Everyone was quite attentive, friendly, and “churchy.”

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Various people said hello and spoke various other greetings.

Was your pew comfortable?

Comfortable. We were in the middle of the pew, with a couple to each side of us.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Churchy, considerate, godly. Good atmosphere for preparation.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Welcome! What is love? A warm greeting.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Bibles were in the pew as well as hymnals, but neither was needed as everything was projected onto a screen.

What musical instruments were played?

Mostly piano. If there were other instruments I didn’t note what they were.

Did anything distract you?

In a pleasant way, I think how attentive, neighborly, and friendly the people seemed. This was a great congregation.

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

Middle of the road. Clapping for one or two songs, but there were hymns, and the church sang like pros. It felt very warm and real. It was conservative, friendly, evangelical, good.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

30 minutes.

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

8 — The senior pastor had a personable, professional demeanor, but he seemed to drag on about certain points before landing on the main point at the end. He told us several times that he was not feeling well, so perhaps he can be excused.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Don't join a mob. In modern day America we tend to use mobs to get our point across. This is not the Christian way. Remember that it was a mob that crucified Jesus – unjustly!

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The music was quite good, from the praise and hymns, to the choir, to the various interludes.

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

The overabundance of announcements. There was something for everyone and everyone had to hear about something forever. Please do something about this rather than bore us to death with incessant blathering.

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

We were offered coffee, but we decided to hit the parking lot and make our exit.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

We didn't stay, but much more than just coffee seemed to be on offer.

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

10 — The folks were good here. If I pastored a church, this is what I would want.

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 feel – good to the last drop. People were friendly, hymns were sung well, the pastor dressed for the occasion, and all was good.

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