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539: St Mary's, New York City
Other reports | Comment on this report
Mystery Worshipper: Corpus Cani.
The church: St Mary's, New York City
Denomination: ECUSA.
The building: A 20th-century mock-gothic construction tucked away in a corner just off Times Square. Inside it's spacious and airy with several side chapels and an impressive seven sanctuary lamps.
The church: It's probably not as wealthy as some of its more affluent neighbouring parishes. But what's money? This is a wonderful, living church.
The neighbourhood: Very busy. The church is in a slightly seedy part of the city centre and is surrounded by somewhat distressed buildings.
The cast: The preacher and celebrant was Rev. Professor Louis Weil, senior liturgical scholar in the Episcopal Church, no less. He was assisted by the rector, Rev. Stephen Gerth; the curate, Rev. Matthew Weiler and dozens of other clergy and laymen who swarmed around the sanctuary.
What was the name of the service?
Procession and solemn mass for the Annunciation of our Lord.

How full was the building?
The church was far from full, but a goodly number were present for a weekday evening.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A kindly old chap on the door handed out service sheets and bade us welcome.

Was your pew comfortable?
Comfortable cushions, but the hassocks were a bit thin. The leg room was reasonable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was an organ recital featuring both Bach and Howells – what could be better?

What were the exact opening words of the service?
The Regina Coeli before a processional hymn.

What musical instruments were played?
An organ and a very capable choir of adults.

Did anything distract you?
New York churches have not seen so much smoke since St John the Divine caught fire last year.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very high but without feeling pompous. This service was living proof that high worship need not be exclusive or patronising.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
17 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – It was too long for my taste, but very sound and easy to listen to.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The Annunciation and surrendering to God as did our Lady.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The clouds!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
"The Service begins with an old tradition of this parish community." These are always worrying words since one knows old traditions always involve gratuitous processions, lengthy hymns and standing up long enough to develop deep vein thrombosis.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I chatted with the Rector and then went out for supper with friends.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I missed it, but we did find a fantastic restaurant attached to a micro-brewery just round the corner.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – The worship was just to my taste and the clergy and people were very warm and friendly.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The organist showing off by adding trills galore during the dotted semi-quavers of "Ye who the faith of Jesus." Hysterical!
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