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|1876: St John's,
Sharon, Pennsylvania, USA
Sharon, Pennsylvania, USA.
The Episcopal Church, Diocese
of Northwestern Pennsylvania.
A beautiful church indeed! Though the exterior is an unremarkable
gray stone block, the interior is outstanding. The high altar
and reredos are the work of Ralph Adams Cram, architect of the
Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City and consulting
architect for the Washington National Cathedral. To say the
least, they are extremely eye-catching, and clearly the result
of a lot of thought. They are described in detail, along with
the church's other artistic appointments, on the parish website
– click on Our
Church. From the tourist standpoint, this church is an absolute
must-visit. Sadly, I did not have a camera with me, and the
photo gallery link on the church’s website was "under construction"
at the time of this writing. But by all accounts, this is truly
a remarkable building.
Although the ministries link on their website appears likewise
to be under construction – sections entitled "Altar Guild"
and "Ushers", for example, are occupied by filler
describing the architecture and the most current on-line newsletter
is dated October 2008 – there is mention of a music program,
youth and adult classes, and pastoral care. There are two services
each Sunday, the earlier following Rite I and the later Rite
II, as well as Christian education.
Sharon is a city in western Pennsylvania about 75 miles northwest
of Pittsburgh, near the Ohio border. Once a booming industrial
center, the city today is a depressing and depressed rust-belt
town. Some earnest efforts have been made to cheer the place
up, but they hardly disguise a very creaky city that saw its
best days decades ago. A railroad track meanders through the
middle of town, with frequent freight trains. Also at the center
of the town is a massive, run-down steel plant. It is unclear
whether the plant is in full operation; somehow the air seems
The Revd Adam Trambley, rector, was the celebrant. Paula A.
Kubik, M.M., presided at the organ and directed the choir. Messrs
Frank O’Stafy, Jack Allen, Mike Rice and Scott Leishman were
on duty as greeters.
The date & time:
First Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2009, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Half full – just under 100 souls. The congregation seemed
to be a typical cross-section of humanity, with representatives
of every age group – perhaps weighted a little towards the older
Did anyone welcome you
The four greeters welcomed us very warmly and charmingly, without
being unnecessarily effusive. Nice job!
Was your pew comfortable?
How would you describe the pre-service
Mostly quiet and reverential, but things got a bit restless
when a crowd streamed in from the gospel side three of four
minutes before mass began. (Had they been at some meeting in
the church hall prior to the service?)
What were the exact opening words of the
The opening words of the Great Litany: "O God the Father,
Creator of heaven and earth, have mercy upon us."
What books did the congregation use during the
Hymnal 1982; Book of Common Prayer 1979.
What musical instruments
An organ, and very well, too. St John's organ is opus 839, dated
1967, of the Schantz Organ Company of Orrville, Ohio, and retains
some of the stops of an earlier Skinner organ dating from 1924.
Ms Kubik also accompanied and directed a well-trained enthusiastic
group of 16 amateur singers.
Did anything distract
The sound of the freight train grinding slowly through the town
was not especially distracting, but was certainly unusual. And
the sound of the PA system (used only for the reading of the
epistle) made me jump! It was turned up way too high. The acolytes,
on the other hand – but more about them later.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Middle-of-the-road Anglo-Catholic, facing eastward. Bells but
no smells. I noted the absence of the more usual Advent purples.
Instead, the frontals, the vestments, the Advent wreath candles
and the floral decorations on the altar were all Sarum blue.
Eucharistic Prayer B, which mentions the virginal conception
of Jesus, was used.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 If there is one word that describes the rector’s preaching
style, that would have to be "cheerful." Even though
dealing with what could be a very dramatic and challenging subject
– the apocalypse – he kept it light, and full of optimism. He
gesticulated a lot and smiled throughout. He referred to his
notes from time to time, but mostly just winged it.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Based on the day’s gospel (Luke 21 – Jesus warns his disciples
about the end times), Father Trambley talked about the second
coming. He told us to look forward to the end of the world as
a time of change for all creation. Our Lord warned us to beware
of people who say the end is near. We can’t help but know when
he is coming. We won’t miss it! So don’t worry, don’t worry.
Our energies should be focused on readiness. So, as our Lord
tells us, be on our guard against dissipation, drunkenness,
and the worries of this life. His coming will be the best day
of our lives. Be prepared for the Son of Man coming in a cloud
in great glory – and don’t worry, don’t worry!
Which part of the service was like being in
The wonder of every aspect the architecture and design of the
church – so beautiful, so memorable.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Ah, those acolytes! It never fails to amaze me how so much care
can be poured into an act of worship and how simple things can
prove so negatively distracting. But in the midst of gorgeous
architecture and lovely music, the acolytes seemed to care little
for the vital role they had to play in the drama of the mass.
Their footwear was ridiculously inappropriate: one in sneakers,
another in high heels, and another who could barely balance
herself on a pair of mules. They chewed gum throughout, were
generally uninvolved, and sometimes woefully uninformed of the
ritual they had dressed up to perform. At times they didn’t
even kneel in the presence of the holy sacrament.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were immediately and warmly invited to join the congregants
for coffee in the parish house. However, once in the reception
room, we had to look lost for a few minutes before an enthusiastic
parishioner approached us and introduced us to his delightful
How would you describe the after-service
No milk (ugh!) and styrofoam cups (ouch!) – but otherwise simple
coffee and cookies in the most beautifully well-ordered church
hall I have ever seen. It almost had the appearance of an expensive
private club set in the Victorian era – comfortable and spacious.
And folks gave us a very warm welcome in their midst.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 I would probably make this church my regular if I lived on the Pennsylvania-Ohio border.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The lovely building and all the Sarum blueness (even the flowers!)
of a mass for the first Sunday in Advent.
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