|1154: Trinity Church in the City of Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Ralegh.
The church: Trinity Church in the City of Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: Dedicated in 1877, the church is described as "Richardsonian Romanesque." The 19th century American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, famous for his Romanesque churches, courthouses, hospitals and department stores, worked closely with the rector to come up with a plan that combined Romanesque and Greek cruciform, with chancel, nave and transepts of equal size. The interior is overall a sort of brownish red with a warm earthy air. There are vast open spaces overhead and a dome over the altar cut in half by a large rectangular open space that reaches up into the tower. Murals by John LaFarge, one of the most innovative and versatile American artists of the 19th century, adorn the walls, and there are numerous stained glass windows, some of which are also by LaFarge.
The church: The church claims 3,700 member households, drawn primarily from the trendy posh Back Bay neighborhood. The church conducts a number of ministries for spiritual development and social consciousness, and sponsors a summer education program for students throughout Boston. There is also a program of mental health counseling for people in need. A large bookstore can be found on the premises.
The neighborhood: Copley Square is one of the most sophisticated areas of Boston and abounds with shops, restaurants and art galleries. The church sits in the middle of the Square and is a popular tourist destination. Tours are given throughout the week for a small fee.
The cast: The Rt Rev. Herbert Alcorn Donovan, Jr., retired assistant Bishop of New York and interim rector, was the celebrant. The organist was Mr Michael Kleinschmidt. Many others, unidentified in the program, participated in the service.
The date & time: Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 28th August 2005, 9.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About half full, not bad considering this was the second of three services to be held that day.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I came in through a side entrance and one of the greeters came over to me to make sure that I had a service pamphlet. He smiled, but did not speak to me.
Was your pew comfortable?
Beautifully carved wooden pews with red cushions. Reasonably comfortable for sitting, cramped for kneeling. The individual kneelers also had red cushions, each with a different knitted design (mine read "Spiritus Gladius – The Apostle Paul"). Clearly someone had lavished a lot of attention on them.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I took public transit to get there and arrived just as the large and impressive procession was finishing, so I missed out on the pre-service atmosphere.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The entire service was contained in a printed pamphlet, except for a couple of hymns from the 1982 Hymnal.
What musical instruments were played?
An impressive pipe organ.
Did anything distract you?
Bishop Donovan's pronunciation of the word "collect" struck me as unusual. His accent didn't seem Bostonian, and I spent some time trying to figure out where he was from originally.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Formal, middle church Episcopalian. The congregation was pretty quiet and well-behaved throughout the service.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Bishop Donovan was expressive and interesting.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Using as a starting point Jesus's question put to the disciples at Caesarea Philippi: "Who do you say I am?" Bishop Donovan asked, "What does it mean to take on the role of Christ?" Christ called on his disciples to continue with his work after he was gone, and so are we all called. When Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran minister who was educated in New York but returned to Germany to lead a clandestine protest against the Nazis that resulted in his arrest and execution, was asked why he would leave the safety of America, Bonhoeffer replied that Christ had called him to do so. Is there anyone for whom you would give your life? Bishop Donovan finished with a reference to a scene from the motion picture Quo Vadis, where Peter is fleeing Rome with other Christians and sees a ghostly image of Jesus going in the other direction. Peter turns and follows Christ back into Rome and to his own death. We may not (and hopefully will not) be called upon to give our lives for our faith, but we are all called to follow Jesus and should understand that it is not an easy path.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
While taking communion, I managed to spill the wine on myself. The chalice bearer handed me the purificator napkin to wipe myself. I looked up and saw her beatific smile and felt as if she were a ministering angel.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The organ was at times very overwhelming during the hymns and made singing along difficult.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No one paid me much attention, other than a smile if I caught their glance. No one came up to me at coffee either.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Coffee, decaf, lemonade and iced tea. I was able to mix the lemonade and tea for one of my favorite drink combinations, but I was disappointed that there was not a morsel of food to be found.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 It's a beautiful church, and the congregation does a lot of good work in the community, but I was a bit put off by no one coming up to me after the service in spite of the warmth they displayed to each other.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Any time I see a well-attended church that is doing much good in the local community, it makes me glad to be a Christian.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The interior of the church – very impressive!