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1983: Church of the Red Rocks, Sedona, Arizona, USA
Church of the Red Rocks, Sedona, Arizona, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Mobojobo.
The church: Church of the Red Rocks, Sedona, Arizona, USA.
Denomination: United Church of Christ.
The building: A modern wood and brick building nestled in the spectacular Sedona landscape, with huge picture windows everywhere. In addition to the sanctuary, there are classrooms, offices, meeting rooms and a parish hall, all well designed and sparkling clean, and all affording a grand view of the scenery. On the front of the church is a banner which reads: "Our faith is over 2000 years old, our thinking is not. God is still speaking." Inside, the sanctuary is light and airy, with picture windows all around and organ pipes to the left of the altar. Choir seating and the organ console are to the right, along with a grand piano.
The church: The dozens of ministries and outreaches of this affluent congregation are all well documented on their website. Of special note is a clown ministry called "God's Clod Squad", which (quoting from their website) "offers skits, sing-alongs, and one-on-one magic for visitations to hospitals, nursing homes, assisted care facilities, church programs, service clubs, schools, and many other organizations." The congregation appears to be very active in the community. A lady who gave us the "grand tour" before the service pointed through a picture window at some of the poorer trailer-park encampments that dot the landscape and described the special outreach that the congregation extends toward those communities.
The neighborhood: Sedona, about a two hours' drive north of Phoenix, features what has to be the most spectacular scenery in the United States; some have called Sedona the most beautiful place on earth. The landscape is full of hundreds of sandstone and iron oxide rock formations that glow with a red-orange hue when struck by the sun at a low angle. The unusual shapes of the rocks have earned them such names as Coffeepot, Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock and Snoopy (after the famous canine cartoon character who spends his days supine on the roof of his doghouse). Many believe that the red rocks of Sedona harbor spiritual vortexes, concentrated points of energy that facilitate prayer, mediation and healing.
The cast: The Revd Donna Cavedon, associate pastor, led the service. Ryan Holder, A.Mus.D., conducted the choir, accompanied by Suzanne Moore on organ and piano.
The date & time: Sunday, May 16, 2010, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Worship Service.

How full was the building?
Close to three-quarters full. The congregation were predominantly elderly and were all very well dressed. There were some younger folk among the many visitors.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. Refreshments were served in the parish hall between the earlier service and this service. A bevy of lovely people came over to introduce themselves and welcome us, and to point us to the cookies and coffee. One lady asked us if we would join her in the church office for a short prayer.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, it was padded and comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Welcoming and very pleasant. People were meeting and greeting each other, and all seemed happy to be there. After joining in the short prayer held in the parish office, we were given a quick tour of the facilities and were asked to sign the visitor's book.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, and welcome to another lovely day in Sedona."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Pilgrim Hymnal, New Century Hymnal, and The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version. There was also a service leaflet with several pages of announcements inserted.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano.

Church of the Red Rocks, Sedona, Arizona, USA

Did anything distract you?
Only the view from the huge picture windows! We had a splendid panoramic view of Oak Creek Canyon and the red rocks. How do people concentrate on the sermons with that beautiful view?

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was basic Protestant. Lots of announcements, prayers, readings from scripture, hymns. The hymns were all conservative and beautifully led by the choir. They did a good job with their anthems also. Visitors were identified by name, which we thought was a nice touch, and were asked to stand. No communion service today.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
13 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – Pastor Cavedon read her sermon from notes, but she looked up often and her tone was intimate and conversational. She had clearly prepared her talk well.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
There are many denominations and distinctions within the Church, but there is unity in God. There is beauty in diversity; how dull it would be if we were all the same. What matters is that we should impact the world with our faith.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The choir was heavenly. It was equally composed of women and men, so the blend was very good. Their rendition of that old chestnut How Great Thou Art was too beautiful for words.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Not even the slightest hint of "the other place!"

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After the final blessing, Suzanne Moore played the Grand March from Rossini's Stabat Mater. For this, more than half the congregants stayed afterward. And it was worth it! As we left, we shook hands with Pastor Cavedon, who thanked us for coming and invited us to return soon.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
As mentioned, refreshments were served between the two services. There was some very tasty coffee and punch along with cheese, crackers and homemade cookies. And some very nice people to talk to.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – Yes, if we lived in Sedona, this church would be at the top of our list.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. Pastor Cavedon is an exceptional speaker and the parishioners are people we would like to get to know.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The view, the sermon and the singing.
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