St Thomas More, Glendale, AZ (Exterior)

St Thomas More, Glendale, Arizona, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Thomas More
Location: Glendale, Arizona, USA
Date of visit: Saturday, 8 June 2013, 10:00am

The building

A round concrete structure, the work of the noted architectural firm DLR Group Inc., who specialize in sports stadiums, convention centers and prisons - strange bedfellows, one might think, for a church. The firm's expertise in pairing aesthetics with functionality is evident, however, in the bright, spacious interior. At the rear is a large baptismal pool in the shape of a cross. Pews surround the altar on three sides. The altar itself is on a raised platform and is backed by a large abstract stained glass window.

The church

Among the usual men's, women's, seniors', etc. groups is one called the Chain Gang (a crocheting club). They support Andre House, a ministry that collects food, clothing and bedding for the poor. They also provide meeting space for the local Weight Watchers group.

The neighborhood

Glendale is a sprawling suburb to the northwest of Phoenix. The church is in a residential area, with a park just down the street.

The cast

The Revd Fred Adamson, vicar general of the Diocese of Phoenix; and the Revd Robert Aliunzi, dean of the Northwest Vicariate, Diocese of Phoenix, administered the sacrament of confirmation. They also concelebrated the mass along with the Revd Jim Turner, pastor. They were assisted by the Revd Mr Ron Gonzalez and the Revd Mr Richard Kijewski, deacons, and a third deacon who was unnamed; and by Steve Raml, director of music. There were also three acolytes.

What was the name of the service?

Confirmation and First Communion Mass. Miss Amanda's grand-niece, a young lady with the beautiful name of Constanza, was among the communicants and confirmands.

How full was the building?

Completely full, standing room only. Well over 1000 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

No. A young lady handed me a music sheet but said nothing. There were persons milling about with the word "Usher" appended to their name tags, but they didn't appear to be doing anything.

Was your pew comfortable?

I elected to stand in the rear, but the pews looked comfortable enough.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Very noisy, with lots of visiting and scrambling for seats. I snapped a photo of my grand-niece and her mother. Her father, my nephew, passed away last winter.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning. Welcome to St Thomas More."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Just a music handout.

What musical instruments were played?

Piano, several acoustic guitars, drum, wood block. The instrumentalists doubled as singers.

Did anything distract you?

The cantor went hoarse during the psalm, but that didn't stop her from finishing it. A cell phone went off during the first reading, and its owner answered it. He did, however, have enough sense to walk out as he was talking. The three concelebrants were not equally miked, and it was hard to hear what at least one of them was saying.

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

About what you would expect for that large a confirmation service in your average Catholic parish church. There didn't seem to be any effort made to lay on any special amount of pomp or ceremony. For example, the vicar general had to ask, "Would one of the acolytes please assist me?" as no one apparently realized that someone had to hold the book for him during the confirmation rite. The confirmands came forward to be anointed as quickly as they could manage. The music was your typical uninspiring Singing Nun stuff - no one in the congregation sang.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

18 minutes.

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

6 – The vicar general said what you'd expect him to say about the sacraments of the eucharist and confirmation, but I thought he spoke somewhat over the heads of the young candidates.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The Holy Spirit brings to perfection the grace we received in baptism, and the eucharist unites us more closely to Jesus. Our task is to go out and bring the message of God's love to the world.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The sight of the confirmands in their white dresses and veils (girls) and white dress shirts and dress slacks (boys) brought back memories of my own first reception of the sacraments so many years ago.

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

A middle-aged woman carrying a baby wandered the aisles looking for a seat. Not a single one of the many young gentlemen sitting at the ends of the rows of pews appeared to take any notice of her! Where were their manners? Where were the ushers?

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

No sooner had Father finished making the Sign of the Cross at the final blessing when people began scrambling for the exits. I slipped out a side door and headed for my car so that I could get out of the parking lot before the rush began.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There was none. We were planning a party for my grand-niece later on in the day.

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

0 – No reason to.

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

I was glad for the children receiving the sacraments, but it did nothing for me personally.

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

The woman with baby in arms wandering the aisles looking for a seat.

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