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1956: St Mary's, Hampton Bays, New York, USA
St Mary's, Hampton Bays, New York, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Ralegh.
The church: St Mary's, Hampton Bays, New York, USA.
Denomination: The Episcopal Church, Diocese of Long Island.
The building: The church was built in 1917 in the Norman style. The outside is white with gray shingled roofs. There is a white tower with intriguing gargoyles. The interior is wood, wood, wood, with an impressive hand-painted rood screen separating the nave from the chancel. There is also a beautiful wooden altarpiece in similar style.
The church: St Mary’s seems to be a very active church, with a Cursillo community, youth missionary trips to Guatemala, Christian education classes, etc. They celebrate the eucharist and hold healing services on the beach during the summer. They also participate in a ministry called Maureen’s Haven, providing beds and meals to homeless people one night a week.
The neighborhood: Hampton Bays is a hamlet within the town of Southampton on Long Island. The Hamptons (including East Hampton, Bridgehampton and Southampton) are a popular vacation spot during the summer and are filled with expensive homes and fancy stores. In addition, Hampton Bays is the second busiest commercial fishing port in New York State. The church is very close to the seashore and in a residential district, surrounded by vacation homes.
The cast: The Revd Bernadette M. Sullivan, rector. An unidentified acolyte did the readings and the prayers of the people in addition to his standard duties.
The date & time: Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 21, 2010, 8.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist.

How full was the building?
St Mary’s is a small church that could seat a little over 100 people, but there were about a dozen of us at this early Sunday morning service.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
As I entered, the procession had just started, so there was no one there to greet me. I picked up a leaflet and unobtrusively took a seat in the next to last pew.

Was your pew comfortable?
Wooden pew with red cushions. The pew was OK, but the kneelers had a springy feel that was particularly comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Missed this, unfortunately.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to St Mary’s on this Fifth Sunday of Lent."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The 1979 Book of Common Prayer, supplemented by the service pamphlet.

What musical instruments were played?
None were used during this service. However, there is a Skinner organ in the church.

St Mary's, Hampton Bays, New York, USA

Did anything distract you?
Some nearby seagulls (outdoors, not actually in the church) decided to add their two cents to Mother Sullivan’s sermon.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Middle of the road. No smells or bells. The celebrant stood behind the altar and faced the congregation for most of the service. We used Rite II, even though the leaflet said the service would be conducted using Rite I.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Mother Sullivan seemed personally involved with her sermon, something I find to be quite rare. She was lively and interesting and gestured appropriately.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
She spoke about the gospel reading (John 12:1-8 – Jesus dines at Martha's house, where Judas objects to Mary anointing Jesus' feet). This sounds very much like a dinner party we might have today. Mary’s anointing Jesus’ feet and then wiping them with her hair may have been seen as excessive, and perhaps even scandalous. But it was an appropriate action considering how she knew Jesus’ time with them was short. Don't hold back from people who you know are dying. This is the time to express our love for them fully.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
After the service, the acolyte called us to all stand around Mother Sullivan and bless her on the occasion of the 12th anniversary of her ordination. She was obviously very moved and surprised. It was a sweet and heartfelt ceremony that demonstrated the closeness of the community.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
As is so often the case these days, the people named in the prayers of the people far outnumbered the people attending the service. For a stranger to the church, this long list of names can be daunting, and one finds oneself merely waiting anxiously for the end.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
As I was hanging about waiting to speak to the priest, a woman complimented me on my summer attire. It has been a rough winter hereabouts, so she was impressed by my short sleeves and Hawaiian-style shirt. Mother Sullivan was particularly welcoming and we spoke for a few minutes before I left; she encouraged me to come back next time I was in the area.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No coffee after the eight o’clock service.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – This would definitely be my church if I lived in the area.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, definitely. This is what I look for in a church: a group of people who care about each other and are also involved in so many ways in helping the wider community about them. This to me represents exactly what Christ has asked us to do.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I’ll remember that blessing ceremony; it reminded me of the ceremonies we hold at my job at Maryknoll Lay Missioners.
 
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