A plain wooden building, painted white, dating from 1922, with a steeple topped by a large purple heart representing the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart, with purple neon lighting, is again depicted in the window above the main entrance. On the porch there is a bell. The inside is rather dark, with a dark wood floor, ornately carved green pews, and white walls lavishly decorated with portraits of Jesus. The windows feature stained glass representations of angels, the Virgin Mary, and biblical scenes from the life of Jesus. In the sanctuary is a small altar on which rest dozens of electric candles. Behind the altar are a nativity scene and a wall on which a rainbow has been painted. Above the rainbow is a blue neon seven-pointed star and a representation of the Trinity, with God the Father depicted as an eye, Jesus as a man, and the Holy Spirit as a dove emanating from Jesus' breast. On the arch above the sanctuary appear the words "God is Superet Light." On either side of the altar are crucifixes above which are written "Holy Ghost is Light" and "Christ is Light." Next to the church is a courtyard called the Garden of Prayer, featuring flowers, shrubberies, benches, and a statue of Christ with arms outstretched. Undeniably fey, yet it gives off an aura of calm.
They champion the Prince of Peace movement, which the church's founder, Josephine De Croix Trust (better known as Mother Trust) established in 1938 on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. The movement encourages its followers (quoting from their website) to "become magnets to attract Christ's Peace" in order to "become alive in peace and love among all denominations, creeds and nations." The church sponsors a weekly lecture series and offers books by Mother Trust for sale.
The church is located on West Third Street just east of Rampart Street in the Westlake district of Los Angeles, a seedy and not altogether safe enclave of Hispanic and Filipino ethnic makeup. The St Vincent Medical Center is nearby, as is the Original Tommy's, a drive-in fast food joint that opened in 1946 and quickly became famous for its generously sized hamburgers served with chili.
The service was led by three women dressed in long white gowns whose names were not given. A significant portion featured the voice of Mother Trust via recording.
What was the name of the service?Sunday Service.
How full was the building?
The building seats about 150. There were 12 people present, young and old, men and women. I had read that persons flaunting bare arms would not be admitted, and so I had selected one of my most conservative long-sleeved outfits to wear. There wasn't a bare arm to be seen.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
As I approached the entrance, I noticed a woman dressed in a white gown praying and ringing the bell that was on the porch. A gentleman was standing in the middle of the walkway. He held up his hand to stop me from entering, but said nothing. When the woman had finished her prayer, the gentleman said, "Good morning. Would you like to come in?" Inside, a lady handed me some devotional tracts.
Was your pew comfortable?
No. The seat was very hard and the back was at an angle too severe for comfort. The ornate carving reminded me of the seats on roller coasters of days gone by.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Total silence. As people entered, they made the sign of the cross three times with both hands pressed together, touching first their forehead, then their heart, then the left and right cheek respectively. This, I learned, is called the Superet sign of the cross. Soft recorded organ music was playing. I tried to snap a picture but was stopped by the lady who had handed me the tracts.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Mother, and the Superet Heart of God. Amen." This by Mother Trust on a recording. They believe in both the fatherhood and motherhood of the First Person of the Blessed Trinity.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Hymnal of Superet Church and a prayer card outlining the service.
What musical instruments were played?
None. There was an organ at the back of the church but it remained silent. People sang unaccompanied, more or less on key, at an unvarying, slow, dirge-like tempo. The hymns were traditional sounding but all unfamiliar, with titles such as "O, you wonderful God, Superet", "Superet love song to God" and "Adoration to our parent God."
Did anything distract you?
The air was heavy with the perfume of incense, but I couldn't see where it was being burned. Also, I had the feeling that I was being watched from behind by the tract lady.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The entire service was trance-like. It opened with a prayer by Mother Trust via a recording; the prayer ended with Mother Trust chanting "Superet" three times very slowly, breathing after each syllable. She sounded like she was casting a spell. The three white-robed ladies then led us in some hymns and read some scriptural passages that mentioned light in one way or another. There was also a reading from one of Mother Trust's books. The Lord's Prayer was recited "in the Superet translation", which basically meant inserting the words "light", "Superet" and "mother" wherever they would fit, and in some places where they didn't. After the sermon, the Magnificat and Psalm 23 were recited. The service concluded with more hymns and a blessing from Mother Trust via recording. The prayers, readings and blessing were all recited in a slow, sing-song cadence that sounded very eerie. The peace was given by chanting the word "peace" 12 times, Buddhist-style; we might as well have been chanting "om."
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – The sermon was by Mother Trust, again via recording. She must have recorded dozens of sermons for various occasions, as she mentioned Mothers Day several times. She also must have been very old when she recorded them, as her voice was the raspy, scratchy voice of an old lady. She spoke with a heavy accent that was difficult to understand. She made some good points, but I thought that for the most part the sermon rambled aimlessly in several directions.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
We must be born again in a new spirit and new body to see the Kingdom of God. God gave the gift of childbirth to women so that they may bear offspring who can become pure in God's light. To be born again is to be born to light. We cannot love God unless we love him above all else. We love our earthly parents, as Jesus told us to do, and parents love their children. But mothers must love God more than they love their children. We should all look up to the Virgin Mary as an example of purity. Our religion is not make-believe. We do not merely say we know Jesus - we really do know him! Nothing can hurt us if we walk in God's light.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I thought Mother Trust made some good points in her sermon, and one of the prayers began, "In the name of Holy Mother Mary we pray for all mothers." I thought that was touching. Some of the parts of the "Superet translation" of the Lord's Prayer were also moving, e.g. "Forgive us, who want light, our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, who have no light."
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
But most of it was, I thought, claptrap! The trance-like way in which the service was conducted, the reading from Mother Trust's book that seemed like it would never end, the dirge-like hymns, the selective spin put on the teachings of Christianity, the puzzling application of the words "light" and "Superet" to anything and everything it all made me feel like escaping!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was in no mood to hang around looking lost. I had all I could do not to run screaming from the place. The gentleman who had greeted me earlier held the door open for me, and both he and the tract lady thanked me for coming.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
0 – Are you kidding? Where are their ministries? Where are their outreaches? They apparently have no clergy, relying on the recordings of Mother Trust for instruction. I can't imagine any circumstances that would draw me back there.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
On the contrary, I felt embarrassed that the message of our Lord and Savior has been reduced to such a narrow interpretation.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
That the Sacred Heart of Jesus is offended at the sight of bare arms.