King of Kings, Oceanside, California, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: King of Kings, Oceanside
Location: California, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 19 May 2024, 9:30am

The building

The congregation was formed in 1960 and the present building dates from 1994, replacing an earlier church. It is a boxy looking structure sitting high on a hill, separated by a courtyard from an equally boxy looking parish hall. The church entrance is covered by a portico. Various renovations and additions have taken place over the years. Inside one finds a bright, pleasant room, with the east wall behind the altar consisting almost entirely of stained glass. Choir seating is to the right, along with the organ console, a pipe chamber, and an assortment of other instruments. Their website claims that there are three cell towers located on the grounds, with proceeds from the space leases going toward paying down the building’s mortgage – clever, but what would Martin Luther think?

The church

They offer numerous ministries, all described on their website. I’ll just mention the King’s Players, an amateur theater group that stages (quoting from their website) ‘a variety of theatrical productions – religious and secular, comedies and dramas, musicals and plays… high-quality, non-professional.’ I’ll also mention the Social Action Ministry Team, that ‘works both locally, nationally and globally on behalf of those in need.’ There is one in-person worship service each Sunday that is also live-streamed. It is preceded by adult education and followed by Sunday school.

The neighborhood

The church is on MacDonald Street just off Oceanside Boulevard, about a half mile walk from the Crouch Street station on the Sprinter interurban light rail line.There is also a bus stop at the corner of Oceanside Boulevard and MacDonald Street, but alas, there is no Sunday service on that route. Sprinter, opened in 2008, uses track belonging to the Santa Fe Railroad and provides passenger service between the Oceanside Amtrak station and a cluster of cities to the east.This strip of Oceanside Boulevard is lined with rather seedy commercial establishments. However, as one turns the corner of MacDonald Street and goes up the hill, one encounters various apartment complexes and working-class single family homes.

The cast

The pastor led the service, vested in alb, red cincture and red stole, and sporting a pectoral cross. She was assisted by various lay readers, instrumentalists and vocalists, all in street clothes.

What was the name of the service?

Sunday Worship, Day of Pentecost.

How full was the building?

I counted room for about 200. There were about 35 present, mostly middle aged to elderly men and women. I saw only two young families, the father of one carrying a babe in arms, and the other including a pre-school child. No teenagers or college-age youth that I could see.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

A very pleasant woman, who turned out to be the organist, said, ‘I don’t believe I recognize you.’ We had a very nice chat. Then the pastor likewise welcomed me and offered to answer any questions I might have.

Was your pew comfortable?

The padded wooden pew was OK. I’ve sat in better, I’ve sat in worse.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

There was quite a bit of loud chatter out in the narthex, but people settled into church quietly.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Happy Pentecost. Good morning, everyone.’ This was followed by about five minutes worth of announcements.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Evangelical Lutheran Worship and With One Voice were in the pews. A nicely done service leaflet included all the liturgical bits.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ, grand piano, two acoustic guitars, xylophone, drums, and a rattle. The organ is a Rodgers digital instrument that was installed in 2003 to integrate with pipes from an older instrument.

Did anything distract you?

I tried my best to spot the cell towers, but they were either very well camouflaged or they aren’t there anymore. During the readings, a lady played some soft percussive bits on the xylophone, which I found distracting.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

It was pretty much what you would expect in liturgically minded, but not particularly high, Lutheran churches. The organ accompanied the hymns, which were traditional, but I thought the congregational singing was rather anemic. The other instruments accompanied a solo sung at the offertory as well as the hymn sung at communion. The Lord’s Prayer was the modern version, which in my mind has no valid basis for existence. At the Great Thanksgiving, the organist gave the pastor too high a pitch to begin the Sursum corda and preface, and after a bit of a giggling fit she began them again at a lower pitch – and turned out to have a lovely little mezzo soprano voice. We received communion from bits of bread torn off a large, flat loaf, which we intincted in a silver chalice of wine, or a ceramic chalice of juice, as we preferred.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

2 minutes (children’s), 22 minutes (adult).

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

6 — There was only one child present other than the babe in arms, but the pastor spoke to her anyway. Before she began to speak, two people carrying balloons walked up the aisle asking, ‘Are you the Church?’ For the adult sermon, the pastor spoke extemporaneously, varying her tone and using her hands very expressively, but she seemed prone to giggling. I give her a lower score than I otherwise would because of the lengthy anecdote, that I didn’t think was particularly on point, that she interjected into the middle of her sermon.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Children’s sermon: Today is the birthday of the Church, and that’s what the balloons were all about. We thank God for the Church. Let’s sing Happy Birthday to the Church (which we all did. Adult sermon: The birthday of the Church is rich in imagery and symbolism. Pentecost happened on the day that the Jews celebrate as Shavuot, which occurs 50 days after Passover. Jesus had already ascended into heaven, and the disciples must have been wondering what would be next for them. Wind and fire are Old Testament symbols of God’s presence. On Pentecost the Church came forward from 11 frightened men in hiding to interact with all the world. (And here she interrupted her talk with an anecdote about a church that had suffered a fire. All was destroyed, but insurance covered everything except the cushioned folding chairs. It just so happened that a house in the neighborhood also suffered a fire at the same time. The owners liked to entertain, throwing large parties. As their house was being rebuilt, they wanted to continue having parties, and so they purchased a large number of cushioned folding chairs – which they donated to the church when their house was restored and properly furnished.) That was the work of the Holy Spirit. Lutherans don’t wave their hands and speak in tongues during worship, but that doesn’t mean we’re not spiritual. We are immersed in the same Holy Spirit that moved in the hearts of those present at the first Pentecost. The Holy Spirit pulls us into all the ways we show our faith. The Church is alive and well.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

I liked how communion was handled – using morsels of real bread and not those thin little wafers, and using the silver vs ceramic chalices. It was also heavenly not to have to deal with anything projected onto screens – there were none!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

The sound engineer was two or three seconds behind on every entrance, with the result that the first few words of anything that was spoken or sung lacked amplification. But even when amplified, the pastor had a habit of speaking accented syllables louder than unaccented syllables, which made it somewhat difficult to understand her. This was especially problematic when she spoke fast, but less so when she slowed down. She would benefit from a workshop in elocution.

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

The organist’s postlude was the Allegretto movement from the 'Spring' section of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. I stayed to listen to that, and complimented her on it afterwards. We chatted a bit about the absence of a choir – it seems that they’ve started summer break early due to travel plans and other commitments. As I was leaving, a lady asked me if I was staying for coffee. 'It's good!' she proclaimed. 'We'll soon find out,' I replied.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There were various juices available as well as coffee. I was thirsty but not especially in the mood for coffee, so I helped myself to some Hawaiian punch. There were also assorted baked goods set out – I tried a piece of cinnamon crumb cake, which was delicious. People gathered in groups at tables but no one paid much attention to me.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

8 — Their website proclaims: ‘We welcome you with arms wide open.’ I had reported on this church about eight years ago and was ignored during that visit. I noted from their website that the staff has almost completely turned over since then, so I thought I would take a chance and pay them another visit. My experience was certainly much better this time. I’m in Oceanside often, and would be glad to stop by again. I would like to hear the choir when they’re back from their travels.

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


What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The pastor’s tendency to giggle.

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