|383: St Thomas, New York City|
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Mystery Worshipper: Newman's Own.
The church: St Thomas, 5th Avenue, New York City.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: St Thomas has been described in detail in previous reports, so I shall confine these comments to the context of this occasion. The beautiful, French Gothic building was elegantly restrained in decoration no banners or other excess just the impeccable violet of the cloths and flowers on the high altar, and the British and US flags displayed next to the pulpit. There was a marvelous air of quiet dignity.
The church: Again, in relation to this context: Many British nationals who are resident in New York City attend St Thomas, which made it a most appropriate location for the service.
The neighbourhood: Midtown Manhattan is several miles from the World Trade Centre, and was not directly affected by last week's catastrophe. However, barriers in front of various buildings, the increased number of police officers on what seemed every corner, and the smoke still rising from the ruins of the Twin Towers visible in the distance, reminded one of the tragedy. Today, particularly with the Prime Minister in attendance at the service, the area surrounding the church naturally was crowded with police, secret service, and various "police line do not cross" paraphernalia.
The cast: The officiant was Rev. Andrew C. Mead, rector of St Thomas. Curates from St Thomas assisted, and clergy from various sister churches presented the three lessons. Following the third lesson, The Right Honourable Tony Blair presented a brief reflection and a short reading from Thornton Wilder.
What was the name of the service?
An Interfaith Service of Prayer for those British Nationals who suffered in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on 11 September 2001.
The service itself was strictly Christian, with readings from the books of Isaiah and Romans and the Gospel of Matthew. Clergy of various faiths, I believe including Jewish and Muslim, sat in the choir stalls. The liturgy was obviously specially planned for the occasion for, though largely Anglican in style, it was not a "standard" service from the Book of Common Prayer. Hurried though the preparations must have been, it was an excellent model for a service in which Christians of various denominations may participate. Wisely, particularly considering how such efforts have backfired at other houses of worship recently, the non-Christian clergy were welcomed but did not present any part of the service.
The readings were especially appropriate, not only for a memorial, but for the outset of a probable time of war, in that they were inspiring and encouraging. Texts were Isaiah 61:1-4, 11; Pslam 23; Romans 8:31-39; Matthew 5:1-16.