Mystery Worshipper: Rhipidion, a sacred fan
Church: St Barnabas
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 18 December 2011, 10:00am
The church is a medium-sized brick building built in the mid-20th century, surrounded by the lush greenery of the Pacific Northwest. Although just off a busy road, it seemed very quiet and peaceful. Inside, one's eye is drawn to the chancel, where a lancet arch frames the organ case and a triptych of stained glass.
They offer Christian healing through Reiki, the Japanese technique for the laying on of hands to reduce stress and promote healing. It seemed a surprising thing for a Christian church to be offering, but the response has been so overwhelming that they have had to expand to two separate Reiki classes in the new year.
Bainbridge Island is about 45 minutes by ferry from Seattle. There is also a bridge to the Kitsap Peninsula. It's a small and affluent community (population just over 20,000), with very upscale homes, many of which have views of the water. It's not a place where I could afford to live. I asked and was told that most of the tradespeople live off-island.
The Revd Dr Dennis Tierney, rector, celebrated. He was assisted by the Revd Mr Dan Fowler, deacon, and the Revd Nancy Tiederman, who preached.
What was the name of the service?Holy Eucharist
How full was the building?
Packed to the seams. At one point everyone was asked to sit closer together to make more room.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
There were two greeters outside at the door who welcomed us and handed us a service leaflet. Standing in the cold to offer a welcome seemed to be truly a ministry of kindness.
Was your pew comfortable?
Typical wooden pews. Very comfortable, which told me this church was built later in the 20th century when people were larger at the base.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet greetings among friends, while the organ voluntary was played. There was a mass of people entering about two minutes before the start of the service.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A very complete service leaflet, and The Hymnal 1982 of the Episcopal Church in the pew racks.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, which was situated behind the altar. I found that distracting at first but soon forgot about it. The instrument, installed in 2005, is an opus of Richard Bond Organ Builders of Portland, Oregon.
Did anything distract you?
Along with facing the organ, I was distracted by a wooden stable at the front with a figure of a pelican on the roof! Then I remembered the church was on an island.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
On their website they state: "Our principal Sunday liturgies encompass a broad spectrum of words, music, ritual and ceremony." It was a well put together middle-of-the-road Episcopal service.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – As the Revd Nancy Tiederman was standing in front of the choir, she often turned around to include them in what she was saying. That was a bit distracting to those in front, but I am sure it was helpful to the choir. She spoke well from her notes.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
"Wake up, children of God!" she began. (I didn't see anyone dozing off, however.) There is so much to do: gifts to buy and wrap, preparations to make. But Advent is a time to slow down, to step into the mystery of the Annunciation and the Incarnation. When the angel came to visit Mary, he did not find her busy at chores. Medieval art often depicted her at prayer. She was "simply there", open to the Lord. Christmas is not all about gifts; it is about the revelation of God in a particular person, place and time, and the penetration of God into all time. "Here I am," said Mary. Like Mary, we must accept God's invitation to cooperate with his purposes. We must find time in the busy holidays to wait upon the Lord, if we want to be gifted with his Spirit.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Watching as those ministering communion knelt down before each child and looked into their faces. There was also a prayer offered during the service for visitors, which felt very welcoming.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The man seated behind me had used way too much aftershave that morning. Smells do not usually bother me, but I had to move to breathe.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No time to look lost. Three people greeted me. As they left, many people pulled on bell ropes, making a joyful noise overhead.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I had an appointment so had to miss out on coffee hour.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – If I lived there I would no doubt join this church.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, by the welcoming atmosphere and good spiritual energy. Perhaps it was my happy holiday mood, but this was the best Episcopal service I have been to in a long time.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
When you are busy, it is important to make time to wait upon the Lord.