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266: Church of the Resurrection, New York City, USA
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Church of the Resurrection, New York
Mystery Worshipper: Newman's Own.
The church: Church of the Resurrection, 74th Street, New York City, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA).
The building: Non-descript red brick exterior. The interior was very stark, rather as if one had taken a few ultra-Catholic trappings and stuck it into the middle of a Congregational church. There was an odd sense of a lack of proportion. The very austere surroundings and the small altar were out-balanced by a huge picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, centre stage tabernacle, and a rather medieval crucifix which had symbols of the evangelists on each end of the cross. Between the extremely plain stained glass windows, there was a framed set of what must be the most horrid rendition of the Stations of the Cross in the history of Christendom.
The neighbourhood: Upper middle class brownstones and a few smart shops. The lower floor of the church, where the coffee hour was held, was not in the best of repair and was rather dusty, which seemed strange in a neighbourhood where no one has had to apply for public assistance any time recently.
The cast: The preacher was Richard J. Mammana, Jr., apparently a divinity student. (Anglican Internet nuts will recognise Richard as the host of Project Canterbury.) Names of the celebrant and deacon were not provided in the leaflet.
What was the name of the service?
Solemn Mass with Sermon.

How full was the building?
Half full, with perhaps 50 people, nearly all of whom were elderly.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Not at the door – it was a small parish where everyone seemed to know each other. The celebrant, recognising an outsider, did offer a welcome both during the exchange of the peace and on the way out.

Was your pew comfortable?
Exceptionally comfortable. Roomy, and with nicely padded seats.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Extremely quiet, largely because many of the congregation arrived late.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Thou shalt purge me, O Lord, with hyssop..."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
1979 Book of Common Prayer (Rite 1), and the Hymnal 1982.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. The choir was rather good, and the lady who sang the Introit will sound like a renaissance angel with a few more years of coaching.

Did anything distract you?
There was a tenor soloist, Shaun Dixon from New Zealand, who apparently is a man of some prestige, and, on the way in, each worshipper was given a hand-out detailing his kudos. However, his excellent rendition of "The Holy City" at the offertory was extremely distracting – a very tall, broad-shouldered man in a natty suit, he stood in the chancel, amidst the sea of slouching choir members in cassocks, and accompanied his solo with hand gestures more suited to the operatic stage. My naughty side then pondered that he, sadly, must have read the hand-out and taken each word to heart.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Rather self-conscious, "high on reverence, low on style" Anglo-Catholic. The service was as high as one could get without having a nose bleed, though the celebrant, during the asperges, had the grim, deadpan expression usually reserved for low churchmen who are conducting communion services on (sigh) weekdays at York Minster. Oddly, I had the feeling that the building was blushing at housing Anglo-Catholics in much the same fashion.

Church of the Resurrection, New York

Exactly how long was the sermon?
14 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7. His style was very powerful and dynamic, the imagery and content vivid, and his obvious enthusiasm the sort which would make a crop of pagans want to rush to the baptismal font. I'm not sure I understood the connections he made between John the Baptist and Maximillian Kolbe on the text "I am not he," but that probably was because I was slightly hungover from the night before. The preacher did not lack style, grace or posture, but made a few witty comments which were rather crude... and I mused that this perpetual, regrettable Anglican affliction is indeed being carried into a new generation of (otherwise wonderful) clergy.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Two texts: John the Baptist saying "I am not he," and "Behold, the Lamb of God." Metanoia, and becoming "transparent to God," as was John the Baptist, thereby being redeemed and transformed. Our distractions hamper our image of God and love of neighbour, but love will transcend this. There was an especially moving reference to how John the Baptist hailed the Redeemer first from his mother's womb. The Gospels are a sign of contradiction in how one man, Christ, placed his life in danger for the sake of others.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The homilist's dynamic words about metanoia, which captured the joy of repentance.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Though the reverence of the entire cast could not be denied, some of them seemed extremely awkward and in need of a good polishing. The processional cross was carried in the manner of a Sicilian housewife trying to mop the ceiling, for example.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I happened to meet two acquaintances, so I did not stay lost for long.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
One of the best I've seen anywhere. Besides coffee, there were lovely sandwiches and cakes.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4. High Church though I am, I am not too at home in a place that has all of the austerity of a Trappist chapel with none of the remnants of Benedictine style.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, even if the snobbery I noticed in my notes reminded me that this would involve a bit more Advent penance...

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The preacher's joyous words about metanoia and transformation.

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