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1986: Trinity Church, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Trinity Church, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Mystery Worshipper: The Kid from Brooklyn.
The church: Trinity Church, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Denomination: The Episcopal Church, Diocese of Massachusetts.
The building: Completed in 1876, this magnificent structure is the work of the American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who designed dozens of churches, courthouses, libraries and other buildings in the style that has come to be known as Richardsonian Romanesque. The church is a textbook example of the best of that school. It has been named one of the ten most significant buildings in the United States by the American Institute of Architects. The exterior is of rough stone with heavy arches and a massive tower. Inside, the stained glass is fantastic, and the walls are adorned with richly colored murals. The formality of the Greek cross design is offset somewhat by the presence of hundreds of individual kneeling cushions, each hand-embroidered and commemorating a deceased person.
The church: This is a vibrant congregation that sponsors many groups and activities, including a lecture series. Their gift shop offers a wide variety of fascinating stuff, including "Holy Smokes", which are fire starters for barbecues made from old church candles.
The neighborhood: Trinity is located right smack in the middle of Copley Square, a busy shopping district in central Boston loaded with stores and restaurants. I recommend Legal Seafoods and Tealuxe, a fantastic tea bar on nearby Newbury Street. The modern 60 story John Hancock Tower is nearby, its glass panels catching interesting reflections of the Trinity façade.
The cast: An unnamed lady led the service. The sermon was given by the Revd David Dill, associate rector for evangelism.
The date & time: Trinity Sunday, May 30, 2010, 11.15am.

What was the name of the service?
Morning Prayer.

How full was the building?
About two-thirds full. But it's a big place.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
An usher handed me a booklet.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Fairly quiet. However, the rear door of the church remained open for the entire service, which let in a fair amount of street noise.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"We have come together in the name of Christ to offer our praise and thanksgiving..." Which, of course, is one of the opening sentences for morning prayer in Common Worship. I'd say the service followed Common Worship fairly closely.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A specially printed booklet contained all of the materials necessary. There were hymnals and the Book of Common Prayer in each pew, but these were not used.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. The gallery and chancel organs, rebuilt and modified over the years, are by the venerable Aeolian-Skinner company.

Did anything distract you?
The aforementioned street noise.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Middle of the road Episcopal. The clergy were vested and there was incense, but no chanting. The congregation seemed attentive but didn't pray or sing with much enthusiasm. Some may have been visiting, as they seemed unsure of what to do.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The associate rector had several topics in mind, but these were not well connected, nor did he elaborate on his theme sufficiently.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
After a lengthy review of Pentecost and the Ascension, he turned to the trinity. The trinity is all about relationships. God is always calling us into relationships, to "come home." The Bible is full of miraculous signs of God's power. Jesus tried every trick in the book – walking on water, turning water into wine, etc. – to get us into relationships. Our faith is not a history project. The gospel stories are just the beginning. God is still at work all around us, if only we would tune in and listen. Faith is about experiencing the presence of the living God. We've got to be willing to listen to what the Spirit is telling us, and that means we've got to be in relationships.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The organ, the architecture, and those beautiful hand-embroidered kneelers.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Besides the traffic noise from the open door, I was disturbed by the lack of enthusiasm that the congregation displayed during the hymns. I mean, did most of the people really not know the melody to "Holy, Holy Holy?"

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. But Trinity gets a lot of visitors and tourists, so I expected that. They do have a welcome table, but nobody from that group sought me out.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Fairly good. But I was more interested in the gift shop, and in getting to Tealuxe, the tea bar I mentioned before, where I got a superb iced chai.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – Trinity has a great deal of programs, and a large congregation. But I do like places where people join in the singing a bit more.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The "Holy Smokes" fire-starters in the gift shop. Now, there's a novel approach to recycling. I bought some.
 
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