Mystery Worshipper: Amanda B. Reckondwyth
Church: Glendale Nazarene Church
Location: Glendale, Arizona, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 12 October 2014, 9:30am
A large modern structure, unremarkable. One enters a spacious lobby where one finds a cafe, tables, couches, and a welcoming booth. The auditorium is theater-like, with tiered seating and a large stage. A large wooden cross was suspended from the wall to the left. The walls were black, with brown carpeting on the floor and brown upholstery on the chairs.
They sponsor several organizations, including a Barnabas Group that ministers to the hospitalized, the homebound and the bereaved; a Caring Ministry that does repair jobs around the house for those who can't handle such things themselves; a food pantry; and a youth group. Each Friday they put on a dinner followed by a service for people making a comeback from hurt, habits and hang-ups. There are two services each Sunday: "Traditions" and "Celebration."
They are located on Cactus Road at 59th Avenue in Glendale, one of Phoenix's west-central suburbs. The surrounding area is middle-class residential.
The Revd Keith Schubert, lead pastor. The Revd Gary Spruill, associate lead pastor, preached.
What was the name of the service?Traditions Service.
How full was the building?
There were 300 chairs available to be sat in, although more were in side sections that had been curtained off. The auditorium was about one-third full - mainly senior citizens of the walker and cane set, with a scattering of young adults.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Did they ever! No sooner had I parked my car when a gentleman in a golf cart pulled alongside me and said, "Good morning. Would you like a ride?" (I elected to walk.) As I was snapping a photo of the exterior of the church, another gentleman walked up to me and said, "Should I pose?" He asked me if I was there to attend the service, and had I been to a Nazarene church before. Inside, no sooner had I sat down at a table with a cup of coffee and a sweet roll when a gentleman came up to me and introduced himself as Paul. He called another gentleman over whom he introduced as Tim. He also called Pastor Keith over. An old lady named Lena stopped by. In response to Paul's asking her how she was, Lena replied, "Better, but I'll never be well." On that cheery note I excused myself to go into the auditorium.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes - theater-style chair, very comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Lots of hand-shaking and "How are you?" among regulars. Country-style Christian music was playing over the PA system I recognized "Rock of Ages" and "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." A countdown clock was flashed on screen beginning five minutes before start time.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome to GNAZ."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None everything was projected on screen.
What musical instruments were played?
Piano and bass guitar. There were two female vocalists.
Did anything distract you?
I found the Country & Western style of Christian music distracting, especially for those hymns I recognized. Also, before the service, they kept raising and lowering the lights for no apparent reason.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very folksy and down-to-earth. The music, although billed as traditional, was all sung with a Country twang to it. Lots of clapping and hand-waving during the songs. Lots of announcements, but a bit short on prayer and scripture, I thought.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Pastor Gary was reading from notes but he spoke clearly and connected well with the congregation.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Pastor Gary's sermon was entitled "Road Map to a Godly Life" and was based on Proverbs 3:5-6 (trust in the Lord). It is a gift from God to be raised in a godly home. We should place our confidence in God, who never changes. We should not be half-hearted about it, but rather our trust in God should be central to all we do. Run toward God! God wants us to think for ourselves, but he may divert us from what we think we want. That may not make sense to us but trust him! God is always present and watching through our highs and lows. God's road map is the only one that will lead us to eternal happiness.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Pastor Gary's sermon was very inspiring.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I think they tried a little too hard to be welcoming. There was a little too much meet-and-greet, "Say hello to strangers and make them welcome," "It doesn't matter where you come from - we love you!" and that sort of thing. And quite frankly, I was disappointed in the Country & Western style of music that was billed as traditional. For me, traditional would have been organ and choir.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The service concluded with our reciting in unison the passage that had been preached on, after which we all adjourned to the lobby. I had had enough of the Boy Howdy Welcome Y'all style of hospitality by that time, and so I left without hanging around.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I didn't partake after-service, but the pre-service coffee was quite adequate. There was decaf and two different brands of hi-test. The cinnamon buns were tasty.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
0 – It's not for me. I don't begrudge this congregation a style of worship that they obviously like and are comfortable with, but it grated on me and would only do so more intensely week after week.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
No. Had I been there as a seeker of a new church rather than as a Mystery Worshipper, I might have been more open to their brand of hospitality and might have felt more comfortable. However, it really didn't do anything for me.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Lena's assessment of her health: "Better, but I'll never be well."