|141: St Thomas, New York|
|Other reports | Comment on this report|
Mystery Worshipper: ReginaldWard.
The church: St Thomas Church, New York, New York, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: One step short of French Gothic, the effect spoiled only by American patriotic flourishes here and there.
The neighbourhood: Saint Thomas is located in the neighborhood which was once the haunt of the Vanderbilts, and has an odd flavor of both old and contemporary New York. The former is clear in the posh stores of the area, and the close proximity to the Rockefeller Center (formerly the home of speakeasies, now the ultimate tourist gathering). Contemporary New York's bustle is all too apparent in the proliferation of food stands nearby. With three large churches (the other two being the Presbyterian and Roman Catholic) in the immediate area, New Yorkers can obtain their daily bagels and frankfurters in front of church. The French Gothic splendor is somehow spoilt by the most necessary signs instructing visitors that "food is not to be eaten on the steps".
The cast: Preacher was Rev. Robert Stafford, assisting priest. Three priests were at the altar, but the names of the other two were not listed in the leaflet. The main celebrant was a reverent, rather statuesque, very young priest who seemed ready to pose for a wood carving. The sub-deacon was a somewhat stern-looking product of the post-World War II baby boom.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Perhaps one fifth full (though in a building of this size, that is a fairly large attendance). Worshippers had the choice of sitting either in the choir stalls or the nave. The choir was quite full, the nave fairly sparse.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I received a restrained greeting from a gentleman who handed me a leaflet, and quite an enthusiastic smile and "good morning" from two ladies seated near me.
Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfortable, with the unusual luxury of padded seats.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Mainly quiet and reverent, though it seemed rather odd and out of place that an elderly gentleman in a front pew was reading a newspaper.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Leaflet with the ECUSA Rite 1 and Hymnal 1982. The pews were amply stocked with copies of the King James Version of the Bible and the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
The lighting was rather bright and kept me squinting. There were no other major distractions, though it was very tempting to turn one's eyes to the superb art and architecture rather than to the altar.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very dignified and elegant, with an atmosphere of prayerfulness and intimacy that it would be difficult to capture on paper. I was especially impressed by the reverence of the clergy and worshippers. My impression was of a superbly planned Anglo-Catholic approach. Excellent behavior from the little choir boys and use of incense with a reverence and precision that the Vatican would envy.