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3064: Agape of Jesus, Jeffersontown, Kentucky, USA
Agape of Jesus, Jeffersontown, KY
Mystery Worshipper: Vagrant Congregant.
The church: Agape of Jesus, Jeffersontown, Kentucky, USA.
Denomination: Independent Old Catholic Church, Diocese of the Lamb of God.
The building: The community meets in Jim Miller Hall, an historic white clapboard building that looks like it may have been an old country church at one time. In fact, it was formerly Christ Lutheran Church, whose congregation moved to a new location. It is currently owned by a barbershop choral group. The cornerstone of the original building was laid on July 3, 1833. But that building was destroyed by fire and was rebuilt in 1895. It has been upgraded with modern appointments and fixtures and is popular as a wedding venue.
The church: They celebrate two masses each Sunday and offer spiritual counseling. Their website encourages all who may be disillusioned with their present church and "are seeking the Light of Jesus" to "come out of the darkness and refresh your faith."
The neighborhood: Jeffersontown is a small suburb of Louisville, Kentucky's largest city. It was named in honor of American founding father Thomas Jefferson. The Bluegrass Commerce Park, formerly known as the Bluegrass Research & Industrial Park, opened in 1966 and was the first such development in the United States, including several offices and other commercial establishments in an attractive, park-like setting. Jeffersontown is headquarters to Papa John's Pizza, the third largest take-out and pizza delivery restaurant chain in the world. Interestingly, "Papa" John Schnatter was born in Jeffersonville, Indiana (not Jeffersontown, Kentucky); he now resides in Anchorage, Kentucky, one of the most affluent suburbs of Louisville. Jim Miller Hall is situated in the middle of downtown Jeffersontown, which features a number of preserved buildings and an historic clock.
The cast: The Most Revd Maurice McCormick, pastor and founder of the Independent Old Catholic Church and its Primate Archbishop Emeritus, was the preacher. The Revd David Whittaker was the celebrant.
The date & time: August 21, 2016, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Mass.

How full was the building?
There were exactly 20 people. The room was set up with about 30 well-spaced chairs so it felt full. The congregation were dressed very casually.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No. I helped myself to a hymnal and missalette from a table at the entrance, which also held the offering basket.

Was your pew comfortable?
The congregation sat in folding chairs. They weren't the padded kind, so they weren't particularly comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I arrived about five minutes early. Everyone was sitting quietly fidgeting with their hymnals and missalettes.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"We had a good crowd for the 8.00 mass. Many people were headed to the State Fair."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, which is popular with many Protestant congregations, as well as the current missalette in the third edition produced for Roman Catholics. It was a bit hard to reconcile the theology in the hymns with a Catholic mass.

What musical instruments were played?
None. There were three songs played via CD on a music system.

Did anything distract you?
The music. It was contemporary and I was not used to the wording. The pastor operated the CD system and the second song was not the same as announced.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Relaxed. The archbishop was in an alb and stole and wore a black zuchetto; he did not wear a mitre or carry a crosier. The celebrant was in an alb and chasuble. The congregation were almost entirely in shorts. There were no altar servers. The mass was based on the English translation of the Missale Romanum, Editio Typica Tertia (Roman Missal, Third Edition) but without prayers of the faithful, and was celebrated versus populum. After each reading there was a short reflection. At communion, congregants plucked their own hosts from a ciborium and intincted them themselves ("We do not drink from the Chalice," their website proclaims). Communion in this church is open to all.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – The archbishop preached without notes and seemed to revisit the same concepts.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He started out with the idea that "This is not politically correct, but the way to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ. It is not about being a good person." He then morphed into a discussion about confession. He elaborated that it was unnecessary to confess because Jesus Christ has forgiven our sins, past, present and future. Because we are a forgiven people we do not need confession. (It should be noted, however, that their website mentions that reconcilliation [sic] and confession are among the services offered on a regular basis.)

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The people there displayed a sincerity of faith. Because of the building's small size, it felt very close.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The music and the music system. I am sympathetic to canned music, but the CD source was hokey and the execution was lackluster.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I spoke to someone next to me for about three minutes. By that time everyone but four people had departed. The remaining four were speaking to the clergy.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Non-existent.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – This rating is not about the community itself, but is related to the service type. It was very informal. My preferred service is high church.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It did. The people seemed friendly, even though I didn't have a chance to get to speak with very many of them.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The unpleasant music.
 
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