Sacred Heart, Yarmouth, Maine

Sacred Heart, Yarmouth, Maine, USA


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Mystery Worshipper: Katherine of Appalachia
Church: Sacred Heart
Location: Yarmouth, Maine, USA
Date of visit: Saturday, 23 June 2007, 4:30pm

The building

Ground was broken in 1920 for the present building, the work of master stonemason Charles Knight. It is in the grand Romanesque style with a high pitched roof. The long narrow nave has a very rustic feel, with simple white walls and wooden beams on the ceiling.

The church

Sacred Heart parish, which includes St Jude's Church in nearby Freeport, serves the Catholic community in a number of Maine's coastal towns. They sponsor all the usual church organizations, including ministries for justice and peace as well as social and family services. During Lent they conduct a "come home" outreach to lapsed Catholics in a non-judgmental, non-threatening atmosphere.

The neighborhood

Yarmouth is primarily a quiet residential community about 15 miles north of Portland, the state's largest city. Famous native sons include Leon Leonwood Bean, founder of the L.L. Bean clothing enterprise. The church is located on Main Street, which is lined with small businesses, many of which are in old homes.

The cast

The celebrant was the Revd Raymond Picard, pastor. There was also a woman who led the readings and some of the singing, but she did not identify herself.

What was the name of the service?

Liturgy of the Nativity of St John the Baptist (with a baptism)

How full was the building?

The building was about a third full, maybe slightly more. It can probably hold about 300.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

I was welcomed by a middle-aged woman who handed me a bulletin. During the peace, one woman shook my hand, one woman sort of shook my hand, and a third woman touched my hand and gave me a strange look.

Was your pew comfortable?

I thought it was comfortable at first, but not by the end of the service. It was wooden with a straight back and a short seat without padding. Due to the short seat, you had to depend upon your legs and feet to keep balanced. The kneelers, however, were great.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

The pre-service atmosphere was respectful. The organist was playing.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Welcome to the celebration of the eucharist."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The paperback Today's Missal.

What musical instruments were played?

A pipe organ – and played very well.

Did anything distract you?

This Mystery Worshipper regretted her choice of clothing and was constantly checking to ensure that not too much was revealed. Regarding the service itself, the ladies sitting near me were very chatty.

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

Closer to stiff upper lip than anything, but I'm Eastern Orthodox – a high Catholic mass would be a low service to me.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

10 minutes.

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

8 – The pastor was very personable and did a great job of uniting the feast day of St John's Nativity with the baptism of little Sophie (the child baptized that day).

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

In John 3:30, St John the Baptist said of Christ that he must increase while St John decreased. That is why we celebrate the births of Christ and John the Baptist near solstices. After the birth of St John the days grew shorter, and after the birth of Christ they grew longer. We should be like St John: he was chosen to pave the way for Christ in the world, and we are chosen to be followers of Christ and help each other prepare for Christ.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

How the sermon connected up the births of Christ and St John with the solstices.

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

The exit. See below.

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

Nothing. Instead of "Catholics can always come home," perhaps this parish's motto should be "Catholics always go straight home!" I sat at about the midpoint of the nave on the center aisle, and when the priest said that the mass was concluded, there was such a rush of people down the aisle that for me to have stepped out into the aisle would have been to risk life and limb. No one offered to let me out. When the chance arrived, I made my way to the narthex. A few people were standing about. The worship leader smiled and muttered a "hello," but mostly I got funny looks and slight smiles.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There was none. The mass exodus continued into the street.

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

3 – Keeping in mind I'm not Catholic, but if I were, I would have answered this question more positively before the stampede began.

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

The service did, the parish did not.

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

The analogy between the nativities of Christ and St John and the solar calendar.

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