From Father Mead: If I Were A Mystery Worshipper
There’s a website called “Ship of Fools” that runs a regular feature called the Mystery Worshipper. A Mystery Worshipper visits a church and evaluates everything that happens from the moment he or she enters until he or she leaves. At the end of the review the church gets graded (1-10). Everything matters, all the details count, and surprisingly, personal preferences about things like-high or low-church styles don’t seem to matter as much as you might think. Recently Saint Mary’s has had two very positive Mystery Worshipper reviews. Though the many details matter a great deal, most churches score well, as we did, if those details add up to a smooth flowing service and friendly people (both laity and clergy).
By the time most of you read this, I will be on vacation. I am not a Mystery Worshipper in any official capacity; however, I too note everything that I experience when I attend a new church. Two summers ago my wife Nicole and I visited Washington, DC. We went to church the Sunday we were there and received one of the warmest welcomes either of us had ever received. The ushers greeted us immediately. We were asked if we were visiting, and we were asked where we were from. An usher asked if we needed to know where the rest rooms were or if we wanted any water. She then walked us to the restrooms and gave us a glass of water each before Mass began. Mass was fine, except there were too many books, bulletins, and inserts required to participate in the service. I am clumsy, and I dropped all of the literature I was given creating a mess of loose papers. After church was over there was a reception where we were welcomed somewhat less warmly. We weren’t really ostracized, but we also weren’t welcomed into any of the conversations. The experience was greatly improved, however, when a couple that we knew from a prior visit to Saint Mary’s made their way across the room to us, and we went out to brunch with them after Coffee Hour was finished. All things being equal, the service flowed smoothly and the welcoming experience from start to finish was generally very positive; I would consider making that church my home parish if I lived in DC, even if I had to deal with a small library of liturgical resources each week. I’d give it a 9 out of 10.
I mentioned that recently two different Mystery Worshippers scored their experience of Saint Mary’s quite well (we got a 10 and a 9). I wonder what the effect would be like on all visitors if each of us, clergy and laity, assumed that everyone entering the church was not only judging us, but also planning to publish a critique online for millions of people to read for years to come. My guess is that we would all go out of our way to make sure every single visitor got the so-called red-carpet treatment. I know that I really want to go back to a church when I get treated like I’m the bridegroom at a wedding, and I also know that I would rather go somewhere else (immediately!) when I feel like I’ve wandered into the wrong wedding reception. I really believe that most people probably feel the same way. A sloppy service really turns me off (I once saw a priest process out of church wearing a Yankees hat – now that was bad form!). An unfriendly greeting also turns me off, even if it isn’t intentional.
I can confidently say that this parish puts a lot of effort into making sure the liturgy flows smoothly. The laity and the clergy put in many hours practicing and working everything out before any service is celebrated. Even when we have a visitor as celebrant or preacher, care is taken to ensure both that the visitor feels comfortable but also that the congregation doesn’t feel like they are being experimented on by someone unfamiliar with Saint Mary’s. We aren’t perfect, but we try to make sure what went wrong last year doesn’t go wrong this year.
I can also confidently say that Saint Mary’s is blessed with some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I have ever met. My mother who comes to church at Saint Mary’s once or twice a year has remarked a number of times how friendly our ushers and our greeters are. I think we can be proud of the work that we do, and I know that every single person who calls Saint Mary’s home is making an effort to be even more welcoming than we already are by helping out visitors in every way possible.
Every single one of us can make a huge impression on those visiting the churches we call home. This impression can be positive or negative, and you can make an impression whether you mean to or not. I wonder how much faster our parish would grow if the impression each of us, from the ushers to the clergy to the helpful person sitting in the pew, gave to others always made them feel like they were receiving the red-carpet treatment. I think that is exactly what each of us hopes to receive when we visit some other church. Matthew H. Mead
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Olga, Jennie, Gloria, William, Gert, Mary, Terry, Daisy, Katherine, Ovidiu, Marietta, Connie, Rick, Carl, priest, and Charles, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Christopher, Marc, Keith, Dennis, Terrance, Steven, Patrick, Andrew and Brendan . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 30: 1986 Elizabeth Collins; August 1: 1969 Mabel Upson.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, July 26, and Saturday, August 2 . . . Father Mead will be away on vacation from July 27 through August 9.
COMING EVENTS . . . Wednesday, August 6, is the Feast of the Transfiguration. There will be Sung Mass at 6:00 PM . . . On Thursday, August 14, the Eve of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemn Evensong will be sung by the choir of All Saints’ Church, Northampton, England, at 6:00 PM . . . On Assumption, Friday, August 15, our interim organist & music director James Kennerley will play a recital at 5:30 PM. The parish choir will sing at Solemn Mass at 6:00 PM.
A LITURGICAL CONFERENCE . . . We have posted on the parish website the brochure for Primary Things: A Liturgical Conference of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. The conference is for parish clergy. Seminarians and other individuals with a special interest in liturgy may also attend. It will begin on Sunday evening, September 28, Eve of Saint Michael and All Angels, with Solemn Evensong & Benediction at 5:00 PM. The Reverend Dr. Clayton L. Morris, program officer for Liturgical and Spiritual Resources, The Episcopal Church Center, will preach. The principal conference address will be given on Monday, September 29, Saint Michael and All Angels, by the Right Reverend Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Griswold will also be celebrant and preacher for Solemn Pontifical Mass on Monday at 6:00 PM.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, donations for flowers for the high altar are still needed for July 27, and August 3, 24 and 31 . . . Saint Mary’s Guild, which works with the fabric furnishings of the altars of the church, is looking for new members. If you are interested in joining the guild, please come to the next meeting on Saturday, August 2. The guild also plans to meet on Saturday, September 6 and Saturday, October 4. Please speak to Sister Laura Katherine or Marie Rosseels if you have questions about the guild . . . Attendance last Sunday 230.
STEWARDSHIP . . . The Stewardship Committee met on Monday, July 21, in the Parish Hall Conference Room, in order to begin planning for the fall campaign. One topic that the committee discussed was education. If you’ve never pledged or if you’re not sure how to pledge and have been afraid to ask, please feel free to contact MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, or speak to Father Smith or Father Mead; and thanks to all for your generosity.
CHILD CARE & SUNDAY SCHOOL . . . Children are always welcome at Mass at Saint Mary’s. And, for the record, the Rector encourages families with children to sit at the front of the church – so the children can see. But there are some Sundays when all young children need to be elsewhere. We want you to know Saint Benedict’s Nursery & Playroom is staffed by Ms. Laura Minor, a professional childcare provider who is Red Cross infant/child-CPR-certified and has worked previously as a kindergarten teacher. The Nursery & Playroom is open and available every Sunday from 8:45 AM until 12:45 PM . . . Saint Mary’s Sunday School will begin the first Sunday of October. Sunday School will meet Sundays at 10:00 AM from October through May in the Morning Room (next to Saint Benedict’s Nursery & Playroom). Parents are invited to attend Adult Christian Education which also meets at 10:00 AM, and families are welcome to attend either the 9:00 AM Sung Mass or the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, or parents can attend the 10:00 AM Said Mass while children attend Sunday School. Matthew Mead
OPPORTUNITIES FOR OUTREACH . . . As many of you know, food prices are rising at an alarming rate, both in this country and around the world. If you are thinking about ways to help, you might take a look at the following websites: Citymeals-on-Wheels (citymeals.org), Food Bank for New York City (foodbanknyc.org), City Harvest (cityharvest.org), the Brown Bag Program at the Church of Christ & Saint Stephen, 120 W. 69th St. (csschurch.org), or the Food Pantry at the Church of the Ascension, 12 W. 11th St. (ascensionoutreach.org).
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Christian Essentials Series: this series covers some of the basics of Christianity and Anglicanism. Classes are intended for those who desire to be baptized or confirmed, for those who are new to the Church and for those who wish to brush up on the basics. The first class in the series this autumn is “Opening the Good Book”: Reading & Interpreting the Bible”. The class meets Sundays, October 5, 12, 19 & 26, 10:00 AM – 10:45 AM.
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . This Sunday the prelude before the Solemn Mass is Air in D Major from Suite No. 3 by J.S. Bach (1685-1750). The postlude is Trumpet Voluntary in D Major composed by John Stanley (1712-1786). Mr. Robert McDermitt, associate organist, plays the organ. The cantor is Ms. Ruth Cunningham, soprano, who will sing her own arrangement of Ave Maria. Robert McDermitt
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Tuesday Mary and Martha of Bethany
Wednesday William Wilberforce, Legislator and Abolitionist, 1833
Thursday Ignatius of Loyola, Priest & Founder of the Society of Jesus, 1556
Friday Joseph of Arimathea Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
Eve of the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 9:00 AM Sung Mass, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass,
5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Said Mass. Child care is available from 8:45 AM until 12:45 PM every Sunday.
Monday–Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass,
6:00 PM Evening Prayer, 6:20 PM Mass. Wednesday 12:10 PM Mass is sung. Thursday Masses include healing services.
Saturday: 11:30 AM Confessions, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass,
4:00 PM Confessions, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass.