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2995: West Valley Family Church, Glendale, Arizona, USA
West Valley Family Church, Glendale, AZ (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Lou M. Christie.
The church: West Valley Family Church, Glendale, Arizona, USA.
Denomination: Church of the Nazarene, Arizona District.
The building: A low, flat stone structure set quite a distance in from the street. One enters via a driveway marked by a stone cross and a signboard set in stone. Inside, one finds a long narrow room with white walls and cocoa carpeting. A stage at one end was backed by a cross draped with a white cloth. The stage was bathed in a bluish-purplish light.
The church: Their website doesn’t include any information about the church as community, but it does say on the home page that “we want to support each other and do life together” and “give our people the opportunity to love the community around them.” They have Bible study, a women’s book group, and a discipleship class. There is one worship service each Sunday.
The neighborhood: Glendale is a sprawling residential suburb just west of Phoenix proper. The church is located south of Glendale Avenue on 91st Avenue, just east of the ring road known as the Loop 101. Across the way is the University of Phoenix Stadium, better known as the Mother Ship (see illustration below) due to its flying saucer-like appearance. Also nearby is the Westgate entertainment complex, featuring a cinema, restaurants and shops.

West Valley Family Church, Glendale, AZ (Mother Ship)

The cast: The Revd Curtis Burch, pastor; Cody and Amy Abrahamson, worship leaders.
The date & time: Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Worship Service.

How full was the building?
I counted about 150 chairs and all were occupied.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A gentleman said, “Hello. Everyone is in the fellowship hall. Please go in.” In the fellowship hall, many people said hello, shook my hand and introduced themselves.

Was your pew comfortable?
Padded chair – very comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Breakfast was being served in the fellowship hall. There was cut-up melon and pineapple, strawberries, quiche, bacon, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, deviled eggs, hard-boiled colored Easter eggs, and several different kinds of pastries and breads. After helping myself, I heard a lady say, “Sir, come sit with us at our table.” So I did, where I had a very pleasant visit with her and her husband and son. As breakfast wound down and people moved into the church, the atmosphere of visiting and greeting continued.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
“All right. Happy Easter, everybody.”

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. We had a handout with the order of service and readings, and words to the songs were projected.

What musical instruments were played?
Digital keyboard, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums. There were three singers – two ladies and a gentleman.

Did anything distract you?
A young gentleman sitting across from me had heavily tattooed arms. A lady in front of me had a tattoo on the back of her neck picturing a cupcake and the words “Cheerfully sweet.” Two little boys in front of me played a game of bumping into each other until the mother of one of them came and made him sit with her. I was reminded of how, at the children’s mass of my youth, the nuns would watch us with eagle eyes, and anyone who misbehaved was taken to sit in Sister Principal’s pew.

West Valley Family Church, Glendale, AZ (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fairly quiet but upbeat. The worship songs were all of the lite rock variety and were played at a tolerable volume (which isn’t always the case). There were prayers, readings, a meet and greet, sermon and Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper was done by passing out individually sealed packets containing a thimbleful of grape juice and a wafer sealed in foil – I had never experienced that before.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
22 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – Pastor Curt spoke without notes and moved about the room as he spoke. He was clear and to the point.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
His text was Luke 24:13-35 (the disciples encounter the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus). The disciples’ encounter with Christ was fantastic! Outstanding! Incredible! And that’s the way we expect things to be in this modern age – when they aren’t, we feel let down. The disciples certainly felt let down when they saw the man they thought was the Messiah put to death. And they had even heard that his body was missing! But their viewpoint lacked spiritual dimension. We can’t expect God to bless the way we want things to turn out – we must see things God’s way. When things go wrong, we must welcome that as an opportunity to discover God’s will. Let God open our eyes, as he opened the disciples’ eyes at the breaking of bread. Invite God in, as the disciples invited the risen Jesus in. Because Jesus lives, we can face tomorrow.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Before the scripture readings, the pastor prayed: “O God, bless these readings. Let the people hear them not as my words, but as yours.”

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Lite Christian rock is not my style of worship music, but even if it were, we were given words only and so I couldn’t have sung along. Many other people didn’t join in the singing as well.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People cleared out pretty fast while visiting among themselves. The effusive greetings I had received upon arrival were not repeated. We were handed a booklet entitled “The Case For Easter” by Lee Strobel, which examines the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. I haven’t opened it yet but I do look forward to reading it later today.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Nothing after the service, but the pre-service breakfast in the fellowship hall was fantastic! Outstanding! Incredible! Coffee was good also, but I’m afraid I spilled some on the table.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – It’s not my worship style, but the people seemed really attuned to it. They're a friendly bunch who clearly love their church and love to worship there. I would not be averse to going back on another occasion.

West Valley Family Church, Glendale, AZ (Entrance)

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
“Cheerfully sweet.”
 
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