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2427: Metropolitan Community Church, Los Angeles, California, USA
Metropolitan Community Church, Los Angeles
Mystery Worshipper: Origen.
The church: Metropolitan Community Church, Los Angeles, California, USA.
Denomination: Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. The denomination was founded in 1968 by the Revd Troy Perry, a Southern Pentecostal minister who was defrocked by the Pentecostals for being a gay man.
The building: The building is 1920s era Spanish Colonial, reflecting Hollywood's golden age. It formerly housed the Mount Hollywood Congregational Church. The interior is flooded with natural light coming in from stained glass windows and a skylight.
The church: This is the founding congregation of the MCC movement. From its humble beginnings in the Revd Perry's home with a congregation of twelve, today MCC ministers to the community in 222 churches in 37 countries, proclaiming the gospel of God's unconditional love. Their dozens of programs are all well documented on their website and include opportunities for personal spiritual growth, an outreach to the military, a ministry to the deaf and hard of hearing, and a group called Social Butterflies for transgender folk.
The neighborhood: The church is located in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, an affluent district that is home to many celebrities. It is a historic district – Mickey Mouse was born here! Walt Disney first drew the legendary figure in the garage of his uncle's house. Los Feliz is home to Griffith Park with its famous observatory, as well as the Barnsdall Art Park, a collection of buildings dedicated to the arts.
The cast: The Revd Dr Neil G. Thomas, senior pastor; the Revd Dr Pat Langlois, minister of congregational life; Garrett Wolfe, band leader.
The date & time: Sunday, August 19, 2012, 11.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Celebration Service.

How full was the building?
It was about close to being completely full. I'd estimate somewhere in the couple of hundreds.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, the welcome was warm, personal, and very friendly. Before I could even go into their courtyard next to the sanctuary, people welcomed me as if I were their own family and it touched my heart. They invited me to partake of some pre-service refreshments of lemonade and oatmeal cookies. At the main entrance I was greeted warmly and given an order of worship. Lots of hugs and handshakes during the passing of the peace. All first-time visitors received a pretty flower along with a brochure describing the mission, worship and service opportunities of this church.

Was your pew comfortable?
We sat in 1920s style wooden theatre seats and they were reasonably comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Warm, welcoming, and filled with joyful expectation.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"God is good. God is good all the time. God is good."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Lyrics and readings were projected onto a plasma TV.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano, keyboard, bass and drums, along with a strong choir.

Did anything distract you?
The beautiful stained glass and artwork.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Happy clappy in the truest meaning of the word, in the spirit-filled tradition of charismatics and Pentecostals. Congregational singing was strong and vibrant. The band was jamming and in full force. The choir was expressive and filled with joy. People were dancing and clapping. There is a strong call and response tradition of "Preach it, brother!" "Hallelujah!" "Testify!" or "Praise the Lord!" especially during singing or preaching.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Pastor Neil started out on the light side and then made it clear what the issues of the day are and what he believes.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The title was "It Doesn't Just Happen." Abundance is not merely about wealth or the accumulation of it. God does not favor those who are financially successful or punish the less well off, despite what the prosperity gospel claims. We are all blessed with spiritual gifts that come from God. In these times, when people are losing their homes and suffering as the victims of bullying and homophobia, we are challenged to claim blessing not only for ourselves but for the whole world. We must consent to being a co-creator with God to transform the human race into the human family: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, and to bring heaven in the here and now.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The strong and vibrant congregational singing, the incredible hospitality and welcome, the interior and exterior of this magnificent building, the thought provoking and challenging sermon.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
If I must find fault, it would be with volume fluctuations in the microphone system.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was steered toward the refreshment time with God's blessing and a prayer for a good week. I had great conversation with the Revd Neil and some of the parishioners.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The after-service goodies included orange juice, lemonade, various cookies, cupcakes, and doughnuts. The cupcakes and doughnuts were delightful and filling.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – Everything I had experienced today was nothing short of incredible. The people were so lovely, the worship was uplifting and powerful, the sermon made me think and challenged me. I felt refreshed and ready to do the Lord's work of justice, peace, reconciliation, and love.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely yes! I am proud to be a Christian. I had a major glory attack in this service and I felt so close to God. After service I was beaming in my face and soul.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The warmth of the community and the passionate worship.
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