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2448: St Boniface, Sarasota, Florida, USA
St Boniface, Sarasota, FL (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: MoboJobo.
The church: St Boniface, Sarasota, Florida, USA.
Denomination: The Episcopal Church, Diocese of Southwest
The building: The church's modern rounded shape belies the fact that it is over 50 years old. There is a main building with several buildings behind. Inside there is a large meeting space, with two stories of stained glass around 300 degrees located above the worship area. There are also classrooms, a parish hall, nursery, kitchen, enlarged sacristy, an outdoor church, a separate music building, a stone labyrinth, and a healing mission. Tonight's service took place in the outside courtyard near the labyrinth, which had 10 benches, a rollaway altar, and two tiled pictures of madonnas on the wall.
The church: They do outreaches and are proud of their fourth Habitat for Humanity house. They also have a strong commitment to youth mission trips and working with other churches in the area. They have contributed to the building of a new parish hall at a church in a companion diocese in the Dominican Republic. What sucked us in was the extensive music ministry, including a schola cantorum. Unfortunately we were disappointed – read on.
The neighborhood: The church is located in Siesta Key, a barrier island off the west central coast of Florida, most of which lies within the city limits of Sarasota. Siesta Key is famous for its white sandy beaches and a wide variety of dining and entertainment options. St Boniface is located on a busy suburban street surrounded by condominiums and homes. This is prime real estate here and every centimeter counts, but there was ample parking for the church.
The cast: The Revd Andrea Taylor, associate rector.
The date & time: September 30, 2012, 6.00pm.

What was the name of the service?
Reflective Eucharist with Taizé Chant.

How full was the building?
Only eight people were present in a chapel that could hold about 50.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Was your pew comfortable?
Cement slab, no seat-back. Fortunately the whole service was only 23 minutes long.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very quiet, contemplative.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Give us a chord, we'll just start singing."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Readings came from the Harper Study Bible; all participants had four pages of four-part music and responses.

What musical instruments were played?
Guitar, for the opening chord.

Did anything distract you?
There is a three-bell carillon directly behind the outdoor chapel. As the service began, the bells began to chime and and very nearly jarred us out of our seats!

St Boniface, Sarasota, FL (Carillon)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very contemplative, naturally.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
There wasn't one; however, five minutes of contemplation was substituted.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – The sermon in our minds was absolutely wonderful.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Personally, one of the worshippers contemplated a Jonathan Edwards sermon, while another thought on the text from Mark 9 about "Whoever is not against us is for us" and the Joel Osteen sermon that we had heard on TV that morning.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The earnest attempt of eight amateurs to do chant. Mark Twain observed that everyone wants to go to heaven but no one takes harp lessons. It was the same thing for Taizé chant.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well, there were the loud bells. Twenty feet away is entirely too close.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The service concluded with the peace, and two of the regulars introduced themselves and talked about old times in Siesta Key that one of us remembered.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There wasn't any, so we went to Carrabba's Italian restaurant for dinner.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 – Unfair to judge by such a sample, but there wasn't much on offer this time.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Eight people trying to do Taizé, and maybe one or two of them in tune.
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