Monday, October 18, 2010

Refuge Revisited

I attended Sunday’s refuge service, largely to see if some of the problems I had identified earlier had been corrected—see “Reflecting on Refuge”—and partly to recover from my upset over this morning’sService bulletin cover 10:30 service—see “Sunday Discontents”.

I arrived in the narthex at 5:50. There was no usher at the door, so I took a copy of the worship booklet and insert and chose a pew. The chaos before the service began had been eliminated. The lighting seemed a bit more reasonable, but, as the service wore on and it got darker outside, it became obvious that the lighting was insufficient for many (including myself) to read the service booklet. Lighting needs to be set based on the end of the service, not the beginning. The lamps illuminating the paintings on the aisle walls had been moved to allow freer movement through the aisle; this was an improvement. At the beginning of the service, the doors to the north transept were open and letting light into the church, an obvious mistake.

Music began at 5:50. The sound was muddy, noisy, and unpleasant. (More about this later.)

Mabel was the celebrant. She wore no microphone, but this was positive. I had no trouble understanding her, and the lack of a microphone made her speech seem more natural. The same slides were being shown as at the first Refuge service. I didn’t understand them then—they included a picture of one of the first atomic bombs and one of a mushroom cloud—and I didn’t understand why they were selected this time.

Mabel’s sermon was delivered in a typical fashion, but I thought that, for this service, she spoke too fast. Also, I did not agree on her characterization of faith as acting on what we believe. Faith as belief, which amounts to the same thing, has gotten Christianity into a lot of trouble.

From time to time, Mabel referred worshipers to a page in the service booklet. Unfortunately, pages 4 and 9 were unnumbered, a definite glitch.

I made several counts of the number of people at the service. Four people were there to actually conduct the service. Depending on when I counted, there were either 17 or 19 additional people, including myself. Sixteen people took communion, leaving one person in the nave. Almost everyone was from St. Paul’s.

I had no problem with the liturgy, which I found more acceptable than what we use at 8:45. The music was more problematic. The sound is simply bad, sounding like the musicians are performing from the bottom of a barrel. I thought this could be remedied by adjusting the mixer, but, after the service, Bryan told me that the mixer was broken and not being used. As far as I am concerned, this is sabotaging the service. Moreover, I think much too much amplification is being used, making the music sound unnatural. Rock enthusiasts and rock concert goers probably like this sort of sound, but I find it inappropriate in a relatively live room. Additionally, it is disconcerting to have the musicians in one place but the sound coming primarily from elsewhere. Again, this is inauthentic. I also object to the fact that some of the vocals were prerecorded.

That said, I didn’t actually dislike the music. It was often too loud, however, which discouraged singing. That interludes were of unpredictable length made it difficult to figure out when to sing the next verse. Also, I hate unison singing and felt resentful when the musicians were singing parts for which I did not have music. Keeping the music “simple” is apparently deliberate. I was unimpressed.

Finally, there are the “stations.” I actually tried to read the explanations of them this time, and I found them frankly silly. But I find most “interactive” displays at museums equally silly.

Overall, I give Refuge a grade of C–, but there is opportunity for improvement. Attendance, however, gets a D–.

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