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54: Nuestra Senora de La Solidad, Oaxaca, Mexico
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Oaxaca, Mexico
Mystery Worshipper: Foxglove.
The church: Nuestra Senora de La Solidad, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: Big concrete box with statues and open shutters instead of walls (not attractive), seating about 250. The church is reached by a long and poorly repaired flight of steps up a long hill. Repairing the recent hurricane damage to the stairs and church is still underway – a special collection was taken during the service to help defray the hurricane repair costs.
The neighbourhood: The church is in the middle of an inexpensive resort community known as 'the poor man's Acapulco'.
The cast: Rev Monsignor Herman Zervis.
What was the name of the service?
Low Mass with hymns on the last Sunday of Epiphany 1999.

How full was the building?
One-third full, mainly with people on vacation.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The ushers and others made us welcome and spoke with us after Mass. We later saw them in a restaurant and spoke with them again.

Was your pew comfortable?
Good enough.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Median gossipy.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
'Good morning!'

What books did the congregation use during the service?
One hymn on a long sheet of paper.

What musical instruments were played?
None... we sang the hymns unaccompanied.

Did anything distract you?
Not until the bells at the end of Mass... see below!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Reserved and friendly. This was the last of five special Masses for visitors, and was celebrated in English by an American priest from Michigan.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7. I admired his courage to do a series of sermons on 'The Spiritual Life' to vacation congregations. He gave us the last in his series of five sermons.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He encouraged the practice of meditation. His stress was on 'how to do it.'

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The unaccompanied singing echoing in the concrete building.

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

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A marriage followed immediately after Mass, so there was no time in church for extended chat.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no coffee.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7-8. The congregation was very ecumenical (the usher was a Pentecostal, for example), and at the end of Mass, everyone who took part thanked the Spanish priest for the use of the church.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
During the final moments of the Mass, the tower bells drowned out the priest. They were ringing for the wedding.
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