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||1505: Trinity on the Green, New Haven, Connecticut,
Mystery Worshipper: Expatriate Theolinguist.
The church: Trinity
on the Green, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
The building: A 19th century Gothic Revival structure, built out
of the brownstone commonly found in this part of New England. The interior
is dark yet very colorful, with green and red covering the ceiling and pillars.
The east window depicts the Trinity via a medieval-style diagram showing
three circles with links between them.
The church: Trinity Church is at the center of New Haven, right across
the green from Yale University's Old Campus. It seems like many students
make Trinity their home church, and the parish is famous for its strong
choral tradition (go to their website and you'll be greeted by a recording
of the church choir).
The neighborhood: New Haven was founded in 1638 as a grid of streets
around a common green. The Puritans envisioned the green as symbolic of
the centrality of the Christian faith to the colony. Besides Trinity, there
are two other churches located on the green. The city has long outgrown
its original plan, but the area around the green stands as a quaint reminder
of life in a simpler, quieter age.
The cast: The Revd Andrew E. Fiddler, rector, was the celebrant,
assisted by the Revd Estelle Webb, associate rector, as deacon. The Revd
Alex Dyer, assistant rector, was the preacher.
The date & time: Sunday, October 21, 2007, 5.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
"U2charist" – Holy Eucharist and the music of U2.
How full was the building?
I wouldn't say bulging at the seams, but every pew had at least one occupant
and the gallery was in use. This was a special service, so it's hard to
judge what regular Sunday attendance must be like.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. A tall young lady gave me an order of service, asked me where I'd like
to sit, and then ushered me to a pew.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, I found it very comfortable. There was a substantial cushion on it,
which certainly helped. Every pew had a door which you could lock from the
inside – which might explain why I was alone in my pew.
How would you describe the pre-service
It was rather chatty, with a few noisy babies and toddlers. I got the impression
that a lot of people had traveled from neighboring communities to come to
this service – they were talking among themselves and getting to know one
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good evening. My name is Alex Dyer and I'd like to welcome you all."
What books did the congregation use during the
A specially produced order of service included all the liturgical bits and
song lyrics we needed. The liturgy was taken from the 1979 Prayer Book.
I also spotted a 1982 Hymnal in my pew – I guess they use that
in their more traditional services.
What musical instruments were played?
A professional U2 tribute band called 2U
played guitar, bass and drums, with a gentleman calling himself Boneaux,
impersonating U2's lead singer Bono, providing vocals. There were also some
keyboard sounds, though I couldn't spot the instrument producing them.
Did anything distract you?
There was a girl in the front row who was dancing freely, boogying with
the music as if she were at a rock concert. There was something about seeing
this in a neo-Gothic Episcopal church that was both amusing and very distracting.
Also, Boneaux walked among the congregation during the final song, shaking
hands with the people like a true rock star. That was exceedingly distracting
– I don't come to church to meet performers, but rather to worship
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The U2charist has become a staple of Protestant worship. Basically a traditional
service, it uses the music of U2 instead of traditional hymns. We were encouraged
to sing with the band, although I noticed most people were simply standing
and listening. It was loud, but very well played rock music, and I'm a fan
of the band. A couple of people were raising their arms, swaying with the
music, and most people were doing the shuffling-from-one-foot-to-another
dance (including the clergy!).
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Assistant rector Alex Dyer is a very good communicator. The standard
U2charist sermon urges the congregation to rally around God's call in the
Development Goals promulgated by the United Nations, so he was a bit
constrained in his choice of subject matter.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The church has done wrong in the past, but now we're changing. Bono can
teach us a few things about Christianity, and he supports the Millennium
Development Goals, which the Episcopal Church also supports. Bono reminds
us that God is with the poor and the helpless, and that God calls us to
work for their good.
Which part of the service was like being in
Being a fan of U2, it was lovely to hear their music played live. Their
song entitled "40", based on Psalm 40 ("I waited patiently
for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry"), was my favorite
song of the night, played in place of a psalm. It's one of the few U2 songs
which is explicitly addressed to God, and it felt quite worshipful.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I'm very high church in my sensibilities, and as an Anglican I believe that
communion should be offered to baptized Christians in good standing with
their own churches. So when the preacher and celebrant both announced that
all were welcome to receive the eucharist "regardless of where you
are on your faith journey," I had a moment of real existential angst
about whether I could assent to that theology and, consequently, whether
I wanted to receive communion.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The tall young lady who had ushered me to my pew asked me, in passing, how
I had enjoyed the service. I also had a brief conversation with a fellow
visitor who'd been sitting behind me. But most of the congregation simply
beat a hasty exit, so standing at the back of the church I just felt like
I was getting in their way. Eventually I wandered over to the snacks which
had been prepared for us.
How would you describe the after-service
The coffee I can't speak for (I prefer tea, which didn't seem to be available), but I sampled some tasty kettle chips and fruit. Yum yum. Paper plates and napkins were provided.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 I'd have to sit and think about their eucharistic theology for
a bit. Obviously the U2charist isn't typical, but I felt uncomfortable about
the apparent lack of balance between performance and worship. 2U are performance
artists, not worship leaders, and I wasn't sure that the organizers had
fully appreciated the difference.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Sort of. I have to say that it was very odd to be at a worship service where
so little of the music was explicitly Christian – we sang about love coming
to town, about being one blood, about beautiful days. But most of the music
(with a couple of exceptions) didn't explicitly worship God. To be honest,
it made me more glad to be a U2 fan.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
There was one particularly amusing and bizarre moment during the service.
The song at the offertory was "I still haven't found what I'm looking
for." Throughout this song, all three sacred ministers held high the
offertory plates and the eucharistic elements, shuffling and singing along
with the music. I couldn't help wondering, "Just what are
they looking for? A hundred dollar bill? Better quality communion wine?"
I wasn't sure what kind of statement they were trying to make!
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