Our Savior, Auburn, California, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Our Savior
Location: Auburn, California, USA
Date of visit: Wednesday, 25 November 2020, 12:45pm

The building

The congregation was formed in 2014 and began meeting in a local schoolhouse, which I gather they still use after having made some renovations. It is a very plain, rectangular, light brown clapboard building.

The church

The North American Lutheran Church was formed in 2010 by a group of conservative Lutherans who were disturbed by the liberal direction in which they perceived the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada to be going. They see themselves as standing at (quoting from their website) the ‘theological center of Lutheranism in North America’ somewhere in between the ELCA and the much more conservative Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Our Savior appears to sponsor a variety of outreaches and missions, although details on their website are rather sketchy. Likewise, I could not determine from their website whether they have resumed in-person services or whether they are conducting them strictly on-line. Today’s service was posted on YouTube.

The neighborhood

Auburn is a small city in north-central California, part of the Sacramento metropolitan area. It achieved fame during the California gold rush of the 19th century. The downtown area features lovingly preserved and carefully restored 19th century houses and retail buildings, and advertises itself as the city ‘where history captures your heart.’ A stop along the Transcontinental Railroad, Auburn is still served by Amtrak and the Interstate 80 highway. Famous (or, rather, infamous) sons include convicted rapist and serial killer Joseph James DeAngelo Jr, also known as the East Area Rapist and the Night Stalker (sharing the latter title with Richard Ramirez, who committed his crimes some years after DeAngelo). Our Savior Lutheran Church appears to be located in a lush green wooded area, judging from the Google Earth photo.

The cast

The pastor, vested in alb (with lace touches on the sleeves) and green stole.

What was the name of the service?

Thanksgiving Worship Service.

How full was the building?

Impossible to say. The YouTube screen reported only six views; I suppose I was the seventh.

Did anyone welcome you personally?


Was your pew comfortable?


How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

There was none. The YouTube recording began without any titles or introductory material being displayed.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Reference was made to the Lutheran Book of Worship, ‘if you have a copy,’ but nothing was projected and there was no handout available for download.

What musical instruments were played?

Piano, with a lady supplying vocals.

Did anything distract you?

I guess I would have liked to have seen a little more of the church’s interior. The YouTube recording was made in portrait mode, and so our view was strictly of the pastor’s head and torso (was there lace on the hem of his alb too, I wondered), a bit of the altar, and a cross on the wall behind.

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

Straightforward. The pastor began by mentioning one of the parish’s ministries whereby the ladies of the parish knit blankets and other items for children suffering from cancer. He offered a prayer for those children, after which we segued into the opening hymn: ‘Now Thank We All Our God.’ Scripture readings followed, which the pastor freely annotated with ad-lib comments. Then came the sermon, and the service concluded with a prayer and blessing and the final hymn: ‘God Bless America.’

Exactly how long was the sermon?

13 minutes.

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

8 — I liked the pastor’s clear, didactic way of speaking. He had notes in front of him but ad-libbed quite a bit. I did, however, think he could have organized his talk a little more efficiently.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

‘Proclaim liberty throughout the land’ (Leviticus 25:10) are inspiring words. ‘Liberty’ is synonymous with ‘freedom’ but includes responsibility – i.e., taking responsibility for one’s actions. Our forefathers intended for us to enjoy freedom in a responsible way. God expects us to use freedom in a way that benefits others and pleases him – else we will be ‘free’ to suffer the consequences. Jesus freed us from sin and death. We are free to live by God’s word. In 1621 the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving, and the day has become a beautiful tradition. Use today to contemplate all of God’s wonderful blessings, undeserving as we may be. Let us proclaim our freedom to others and use it for the good of our fellow man. May God bless our Thanksgiving.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Hearing ‘God Bless America.’ It never fails to raise goosebumps. I am sure that Irving Berlin and legendary songstress Kate Smith, who made Berlin’s song one of her signature pieces, were joining in from that great choir loft in the sky.

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

That only six people could have been bothered to watch this service. And at the very end of the video, a lady shoved herself at the camera and made a funny face. Who? Why? Childish!

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

The YouTube recording ended abruptly and I poured myself a glass of wine.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

No coffee, but I had chosen a tasty Gewürztraminer for my afternoon whistle-wetter.

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

8 — Today’s service was an abbreviated one, but I’d like to tune in to one of their regular Sunday services. I don’t envision myself visiting that part of California, though, after it is safe to travel again and in-person services resume.

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


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

‘God Bless America.’

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