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2938: Westminster Presbyterian, Eugene, Oregon, USA
Westminster Presbyterian, Eugene, OR (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Portola.
The church: Westminster Presbyterian, Eugene, Oregon, USA.
Denomination: Presbyterian Church (USA).
The building: An attractive modern A-frame building. There is a fellowship hall and rooms for small groups. The sanctuary has a warm, invigorating atmosphere because of the stylish woodwork and striking banner that consisted of hanging bands in rainbow colors, with the dove of the Holy Spirit superimposed on these bands.
The church: The congregation started in 1952 as an offshoot of the Central Presbyterian Church in Eugene. At first, 46 members met in an elementary school for worship, growth and planning. In 1956 a fellowship hall was built at the present location. The church was finished in 1984 and the organ was installed 2002. The congregation seem to cover all the bases, offering fellowship and learning experiences for all ages, reaching out to the needy, being involved in missionary projects, doing the ecologically correct thing, etc.
The neighborhood: Eugene, with a population of about 160,000, is the second largest city in Oregon and is home of the University of Oregon. The city has a reputation for community inventiveness: green activism, counter-cultural ideas, innovative city planning, efficient mass transit, etc. About 60 miles to the south of Eugene is the Umpqua Community College, which received worldwide media attention a short time ago when a gunman shot eighteen people, nine fatally. After being wounded by police, he ended his life. This incident, which was referred to as the deadliest mass shooting in modern Oregon history, was the focal point for the sermon. The church is located in a residential area that used to be an orchard.
The cast: The Revd David Ukropina and the Revd Marta Ukropina, co-pastors, led the service, with the Revd David delivering the greeting and preaching, and the Revd Marta leading the prayers. The liturgist was Hazel Jones. Nan Helsabeck, choir director, played organ and piano and preached the children’s sermon.
The date & time: October 18, 2015, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Worship.

How full was the building?
About two-thirds full, an estimated 90 persons.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Several people welcomed us briefly; the ministers (a married couple) greeted people with handshakes as they entered the sanctuary.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Some quiet, some animated conversation as people greeted one another. Organ music in background.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
“Grace to you and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ, and welcome to our worship.”

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Presbyterian Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano. The organ, opus 31 of Bond Organ Builders of Portland, Oregon, is beautifully encased behind the communion table.

Westminster Presbyterian, Eugene, OR (Interior)

Did anything distract you?
The lower level windows of the church consist of clear glass, so that one can look outside into the greenery surrounding the church. I am not accustomed to being able to see the “real world” during a service. However, this was a very mild distraction.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was liturgical with a dignified, friendly atmosphere. I appreciated that we sang traditional hymns with organ accompaniment. A special feature was the children’s sermon, which lightens up the atmosphere of any service; at its conclusion the children presented each first time visitor with a coffee mug that displayed the logo of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the name and web address of Westminster. In the mug were information brochures.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – This sermon was carefully crafted. The Revd David Ukropina spoke with heartfelt candidness and sensitivity, offering theological reflection in a way that I am sure touched the hearts and minds of all listeners. His honesty and integrity were apparent. He avoided the pitfall of overstating his position, allowing some themes to remain undeveloped.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The focal point of the sermon was the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College. Talking about such an event can lead to disruptive divisiveness along political or social lines (for example, the gun control issue). This type of violence makes us aware of how precious life is. It produces an instinctive fight or flight response, but what is needed is biblical insight. The assassin put himself in the limelight, displaying an enormous self-absorption. Jesus revealed in himself the exact opposite dynamic: instead of seeking the limelight, he became a servant and discouraged his disciples from seeking the limelight. Instead of instigating violence, Jesus suffered violence. Jesus rolled back suffering and death. Evil always involves a deliberate choice. If it is true that one person can cause immeasurable pain and suffering, it is equally true that one person can overcome pain and suffering. We are called upon to cover each square inch of reality with the grace and love revealed in Jesus.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
During the sermon I felt that heaven and earth had come together: heavenly light was projected into darkness.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Hearing how, in his own words, the Umpqua assassin aligned himself with demons in order to assure his success in hell. What a gruesome thought!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
One person noticed my interest in the sanctuary and asked me how I interpreted the design of the area.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was typical church coffee: not too strong, with powdered cream. I felt right at home.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – The congregation are friendly and offer many opportunities to participate. The Christian education for adults, from what I read, seems to be exceptional.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, indeed. I felt that the divine was at the center of worship.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The banner at the front of the church, with the dove of the Holy Spirit.
 
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