St Andrew's, Greenville, SC (Interior)

St Andrew's, Greenville, South Carolina, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Andrew's
Location: Greenville, South Carolina, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 12 October 2014, 10:30am

The building

The cornerstone of this pretty little red brick church was laid in 1904. The stained glass windows over the altar are lovely and provide a marvelous focal point to gaze upon during prayers. The original tracker organ, in use since 1914, is beautiful, with eye-catching pipes painted royal French blue.

The church

St Andrew's worships in the Anglo-Catholic tradition: smells, bells, and all! The parish is vibrant and growing, serving the community through a feeding-the-hungry outreach each week in addition to services. They are also committed to educating about the Anglo-Catholic tradition. They sponsor chapters of Episcopal Church Women and Daughters of the King, plus the Order of St Vincent.

The neighborhood

Greenville, in the northwest corner of South Carolina, was an important textile manufacturing center until the early 20th century, and was the home of Donaldson Air Force Base until the 1960s. The old air base has been converted to a business park, with tenants occupying the original barracks. Greenville figured prominently during the American civil rights movement, and in 1963 prompted the US Supreme Court to declare local segregation policies unconstitutional (Peterson v City of Greenville, 373 US 244). Downtown Greenville has won multiple awards for development and community events. St Andrew's is located in the historic West End district. Across the street is Fluor Field, the baseball stadium. The former home of baseball great "Shoeless" Joe Jackson is nearby, housing the Shoeless Joe Museum and Baseball Library. Jackson, who earned his nickname when he once played a game in his stocking feet because of blisters, is remembered for his alleged connection with a scandal involving the 1919 World Series. Legend has it that as Jackson was being led away by police, a young boy called out, "Say it ain't so, Joe!" – probably apocryphal, the story is still an indelible part of baseball lore. Acquitted of wrongdoing by a court of law, Jackson was nevertheless banned from baseball for life. What role, if any, he actually played in the incident is hotly disputed to this day.

The cast

The Revd Stephen Bolle, interim rector. This was Father Bolle's last Sunday at St Andrews, as their newly called rector would be assuming his duties the following week.

What was the name of the service?

Sung High Mass

How full was the building?

Mostly full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Several people welcomed us, asking our names, if it was our first time visiting St Andrew's, etc. They were being very welcoming without being overwhelming.

Was your pew comfortable?

Standard old wooden pews, comfortable enough. The kneelers, not as comfortable, were very historic, with blue velvet cushions and wrought-iron hinges.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

We arrived precisely on time and found a seat just as the procession was beginning from the back of the nave. Everyone was attentive to the priest as he censed the altar and explained to the congregation why incense is part of Anglo-Catholic worship.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning and welcome to St Andrew's."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Prayer Book 1979 and Hymnal 1982, plus a battered service booklet published by the church.

What musical instruments were played?

The gorgeous old organ, an opus of Hinners & Albertsen Organ Builders of Pekin, Illinois, who built or refurbished over 3000 instruments for theaters, churches and schools between 1879 and 1939. It was played expertly by Greg Campbell, guest organist.

Did anything distract you?

There were children who made happy and not-so-happy noises during the mass. Distracting, but not in a negative way.

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

Worship was traditional Anglo-Catholic, but warmly so. It didn't feel awkward or stilted or forced.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

11 minutes.

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

10 – Father Bolle is a very expressive, personable preacher. From the reading of the gospel to his sermon, he made eye contact while infusing his voice with warmth and character. He concluded his sermon by thanking the congregation for the time he has spent with them as their interim rector.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The gospel reading was Matthew 22:1-14, the parable of the wedding banquet. He said that the parable is certainly not the most cheerful passage in the Bible. Some see it as allegory, but we should be careful in our interpretation of parables when they appear to work to our advantage. Jesus intended his parables to make us ask, "Where am I with God?" To whom do we owe our allegiance – to God or to some other power? And what is required of us to show our allegiance to that power? How should we approach the celestial banquet? Don't be the one who shows up without a wedding garment on!

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The explanation of the incense at the beginning. I love it when a priest is willing to share about church customs, especially ones that are accepted and seem the norm. There's always a reason for doing these things! Also, the Angelus at the conclusion of mass, all facing the Marian shrine. Beautiful and moving.

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

While the kneelers were pretty and obviously vintage, they were certainly not comfortable. My knees kept slipping off the edge of the cushion. Also, we had to juggle the Prayer Book, hymnal, and service book the whole time, sometimes ending up referencing all three at once, switching back and forth quickly as the service progressed, mostly getting lost and having to play catch-up.

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

Several people warmly welcomed us, and urged us to join them for the luncheon honoring Father Bolle's service.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Luncheon with champagne, which we unfortunately couldn't stay for, having already made lunch plans.

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

10 – I certainly enjoyed visiting this church and won't hesitate to urge my sister, who lives in town, to visit again or even become a regular.

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

Yes. While the liturgy, by nature, is a script, the service didn't feel scripted or wooden. Every time a priest presses the bread into my hands and says, "This is Christ's Body, broken for you," I am overwhelmed with joy, and no less so here at St Andrew's.

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

I'll remember the blue organ pipes, and the fact that Father Bolle was so personable and affable.

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