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2778: Compass Church, Goodyear, Arizona, USA
Compass Church, Goodyear, AZ (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Amanda B. Reckondwythe.
The church: Compass Church, Goodyear, Arizona, USA.
Denomination: Independent.
The building: A modern building set on a shady campus including classroom buildings and a children’s playground. Inside, one enters a tiny lobby off which opens the auditorium, a dark triangular shaped room with a stage at one end. The room had no distinguishing features except that it was dark.
The church: They sponsor various groups for members of all ages. Among these are a men’s breakfast held each Wednesday morning at 6.00am, where men (quoting from their website) “get together to eat breakfast and dig deeper into God's word”, and women’s Bible study in the afternoon and evening. They also sponsor connection groups as “a great way to get to know new people and to have a support system of fellow Christians.” There are three worship services each Sunday.
The neighborhood: The city of Goodyear, in the southwest corner of the Phoenix metropolitan area, owes its existence to the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, which in the early 20th century selected the area for a 16,000-acre plantation to grow cotton for use in automobile and airplane tires. In the 1940s the company’s aircraft division built a major factory in Goodyear that over a 20 year period turned out hundreds of dirigibles, or blimps, primarily for military use. But the Goodyear blimp is no longer made here, and the old cotton fields have been given over to commercial and residential development. Phoenix’s western suburbs have long played poor country cousin to the more fashionable East Valley, but Goodyear is decidedly on the rise. Compass Church is located on Van Buren Street just east of the ring road known as the Loop 303, until recently little more than a two-lane back road but finally re-engineered to expressway standards. Walled-off middle-class residential developments predominate.
The cast: David Hurtado, executive pastor, led the communion service and made announcements. Tim Jacobs, lead pastor, preached.
The date & time: Sunday, November 2, 2014, 11.30am.

What was the name of the service?

How full was the building?
I counted about 250 chairs and about 75 people, mostly young couples and families.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes – standard conference room style chairs. The rear two or three rows in each section were roped off.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Teenagers were playing a game of football in the outdoor play area. As the earlier service let out, they began to make their way toward the entrance. Inside there was some quiet visiting, but most people just sat still.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
There were no opening words – the musicians just began to play.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
There was an informational leaflet but song lyrics and scriptural quotes were projected.

What musical instruments were played?
Digital keyboard, four electric guitars, tambourine, drums.

Did anything distract you?
The drummer was completely enclosed in a Plexiglas box. The tambourine player was barefoot.

Compass Church, Goodyear, AZ (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very informal happy-clappy. The music was all of the hard Christian rock variety; its only saving grace was that it was not played loud. Communion was distributed via oysterette crackers and wee cuppies of grape juice, but no words of institution were pronounced; I’ll have more to say about this below. There were lots of very informally delivered announcements, including a long talk about plans for future church expansion.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
35 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – Pastor Tim spoke very rapidly and excitedly, which was at times exasperating and at times endearing. I thought it took him long enough to get to the points he was trying to make, but once he got there he said some interesting things, if a tad oversimplified. He also peppered his talk with humorous remarks as appropriate.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He spoke of vision for the church as a whole and for us as individuals, and began with a quote from Helen Keller: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” The Bible can restore lost vision. How can we get back a vision that we once had but may have lost? One must first acknowledge God’s greatness, which science, philosophy and the entertainment industry continually chip away at. Then one must admit that one’s failures are one’s own fault, not due to others. Finally, one must dare to ask boldly of God, not treat him as a cosmic errand boy.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I was especially moved by an example that Pastor Tim gave of how, in his work as a military chaplain, he was able to rekindle hope in servicemen who felt they had lost it all. And some of his humorous remarks, like the one about how a man who was wearing yellow sneakers looked like he was walking on bananas, were rather enjoyable.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
At the beginning of communion, Pastor Dave made a point of emphasizing that no transformation would take place, that God was not present in the elements. Indeed, there were no words of institution, no mention of the Last Supper, and in fact no parallel drawn at all to a meal. So why bother, then, I thought to myself. The crackers and grape juice were distributed with less ceremony than flight attendants use when passing out snacks. To top it all off, we consumed the grape juice first and then the cracker.

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

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Before the service began, I had taken a cup of coffee from Thermos bottles arrayed on an unmanned counter – it was adequate. I saw no offer of after-service refreshments other than the aforementioned Thermos bottles.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
0 – I don’t begrudge this type of church for people who are clearly brought closer to God by it. But I simply cannot agree with some of the remarks made. Perhaps the entertainment industry does try to chip away at God, but surely science and philosophy strive to make his ways more understandable, not to contradict them. And there is much, much more to communion than oysterettes and grape juice.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
No. To me it was an oversimplification of what it means to be a Christian.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Pastor Tim: “I'm not up on the latest fashions, but one thing I’ll never do is wear yellow sneakers. I saw a man wearing yellow sneakers the other day – he looked like he was walking on bananas.” A one-liner of which the great comedians of old would be proud.
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