Holy Spirit, Akron, OH

Holy Spirit, Akron, Ohio, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Holy Spirit
Location: Akron, Ohio, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 27 July 2014, 10:00am

The building

They meet at the Sacred Heart Community Center, a modern, long and flat building with two entrances on the one side. It has wood floors, stacking chairs, a portable altar and a music area.

The church

Along with four other local parishes, they disaffiliated themselves from The Episcopal Church in 2003 and set themselves up as an inner-city mission of St Luke’s Ministries. The next year, they planted themselves as a separate parish. Each Wednesday they open up the community center to the neighborhood residents for (quoting from their website) "the Word of God, lunch, relationship building and ministry." They conduct discipleship programs for men and women.

The neighborhood

Akron, in eastern Ohio, is the state's fifth largest city. Once an important manufacturing center, especially for automobile tires, only one tire manufacturer remains today. Akron was the adopted home of the German immigrant Ferdinand Schumacher, who in 1857 created the American version of porridge known as oatmeal and founded the company that would eventually become Quaker Oats. In 1851, at a convention held in Akron, the African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) delivered extemporaneously the speech that would later be published under the title "Ain't I a Woman?" ("That man over there says that ... women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with him.") The church meets in inner-city Akron, across the street from the main post office, near the University of Akron.

The cast

The celebrant was the Revd Steve Wewer, chief of staff. The preacher was the Revd Cynthia Olson, associate.

What was the name of the service?

Sunday Service.

How full was the building?

There were 54 people present, which is about 40 per cent of the building's capacity.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Yes! Upon entering I was given a handshake greeting and a bulletin. Everyone seemed to greet everyone else during the peace. Lots of hellos, lots of smiles.

Was your pew comfortable?

The chairs were comfortable despite not being padded. They were just the right height and width, and moveable when they need to stack them to use the room for some other purpose.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

It was not exactly quiet, but not raucous. People were chatting with one another and the worship team were practicing a bit.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning. Let's stand and prepare our hearts for worship."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Some used Bibles brought from home, and there was a service bulletin with prayers and songs printed.

What musical instruments were played?

Piano, guitar, drums, and sometimes a tambourine. There were four guys, two of whom sang – the pianist, who was the leader, and the tambourine man, and there was a woman who only sang.

Did anything distract you?

Nothing, except my own mind when it wanted to go someplace that I didn't want it to.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Their website says that the order of service is based on that used in the Anglican Church of Kenya. There were contemporary songs, a hymn and some older once-contemporary songs: "Holy, Holy, Holy," "Holy" by the Christian folk music band Waterdeep, "You are so good to me" and "Refiner's fire" were the four songs that were sung during worship time. Following that, there were readings from scripture, sermon, prayers of intercession, the eucharist, and prayers for healing and thanksgiving.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

14 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

7 – The Revd Cynthia Olson made a good connection with the congregation, who were still and silent during the sermon, clearly engaged.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

It was an entirely different take on the gospel reading: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 (the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast; the hidden treasure and the pearl; the fisherman's net). Each was given a different twist: we fall and then we get up, God does the work if we surrender. Mature in the Lord instead of stagnating or going backwards. The kingdom of God is where God is king!

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Prayer time. The prayers for intercession, healing and thanksgiving were moving and heartfelt.

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

Skipping the confession of sins was difficult for me.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

There was no coffee served, but lots of people hung out and visited, and several came and chatted with me. It was warm, inviting and comfortable.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Nothing was served.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

8 – I am currently looking for a new home church. I've been looking inside and outside the denomination. Because I love liturgy I will choose one inside the denomination, and this is the likeliest candidate.

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

Yes, they are silent before the Lord and very worshipful. It was a good place to feel the presence of God in his people.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The smiles.

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