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|2258: The American
Cathedral in Paris
|Mystery Worshipper: Haywood.
of the Holy Trinity, Paris, France.
Denomination: The Episcopal Church, Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe.
A large building in the English Gothic Revival style dating
from 1882, situated in the center of Paris, not to be confused
with the American Church on the other side of the river. The
central nave has 52 flags hanging on both sides, representing
the United States, France, and the 50 American states. For me,
an added bonus was that the piano Cole Porter is supposed to
have played when he was in Paris is in the cathedral, although
it is rarely uncovered.
An international English-speaking community, the cathedral serves
as the seat for the bishop in charge of Episcopal churches in
Europe. On a Sunday there are eucharists at 9.00am and 11.00am,
and an informal service at 6.00pm. There is also a Sunday school
and services during the week. The cathedral is involved in supporting
disadvantaged groups in the local community. There are many
other activities such as Bible study groups, all of which are
detailed on the cathedral's website.
Where do I start? This is Paris and everything is interesting!
The cathedral is located on Avenue George V in the eighth arrondissement,
which is on the right bank of the Seine and near the Arc de
Triomphe and Champs Elysees. The Seine and Eiffel Tower are
just down the road. The unofficial Diana memorial is close by
at Place d'Alma.
The Rt Revd Pierre Whalon, bishop in charge of the Convocation
of Episcopal Churches in Europe, was the preacher. The Revd
Canon Elizabeth Hendrick, canon pastor, was the celebrant. The
dean, the Very Revd Zachary Fleetwood, was also in attendance.
The date & time:
Sunday, 2 October 2011, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist and Ground Breaking.
How full was the building?
The central part of the cathedral was comfortably full. The
one side aisle of seats was mostly full too.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Someone handed me an order of service and said "Hello",
or was it "Bonjour"? We exchanged handshakes
at the peace.
Was your pew comfortable?
Pews were good Ė so good I didnít really notice sitting on them!
How would you describe the pre-service
I arrived as the choir were rehearsing a descant Ė it sounded
magnificent. Then it was quiet until the talented organist started
playing, about five minutes before worship started.
What were the exact opening words of the
A processional hymn started the service, and then we went straight
into the liturgy: "Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy
Spirit." The welcome from the front came toward the end
of the service.
What books did the congregation use during the
The Hymnal 1982 and the order of service. The Book
of Common Prayer was available but not used.
What musical instruments
Organ. One of the largest in Europe, it was built in 1887 by
the noted French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll,
who was responsible for many organs throughout Europe and as
far afield as Japan. Composers Marcel Dupré and Maurice
Duruflé were involved in its evolution during the first
half of the 20th century.
Did anything distract
The lady in the row in front who kept looking round Ė not at
me, but it was still rather off-putting. Also a child and parent
behind who insisted on having a loud conversation throughout
communion and during some of the beautiful music.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Formal. Everything was professionally done, but for me the main
worship rather lacked a sense a joy.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 The sermon was good and easy to follow. It felt very
serious Ė I wanted some fun to invade it occasionally to make
it even more accessible.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
This was a special day for the congregation. It was the start
of the building work after, I suspect, years of planning. The
sermon reflected this and was based of the parable of the vineyard
in Matthew 21. The preacher compared what we need to do to produce
a good vineyard with Godís presence with us, and how God "gets
his hands dirty" trying to help us. Two key points: first,
God doesnít give up if the grapes donít turn out well. He will
start over again. Second, God gave us Jesus, "the true
vine", to help us so we shouldnít rely on our own efforts
but on his grace. This theme was then tied up to the new building
work which could be justified only if, through it, more people
(the branches) could have access to the vine.
Which part of the service was like being in
The communion anthem, Ave verum corpus by William Byrd.
The choir stood at the back of the church and the music fitted
beautifully with the congregation moving to the front to receive
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The prayers of the people were rather formal and for me somewhat
disappointing. They were written in the order of service and
just read out. Didnít feel like God got much of a look in.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After the main service there was the "groundbreaking"
liturgy in the dean's garden, where the first shovels of earth
were lifted in preparation for the building in the coming days.
We didnít have a chance to hang around but all processed out.
We were given a glass of champagne (kind of – there are high
standards. This is France after all!) or orange juice to toast
the building. This was where the fun and joy were. It felt a
real sense of occasion and people seemed genuinely excited.
The digging was done by the clergy, some younger members of
the congregation, and an older member (really nice touch). After
the liturgy, the digging and the toast, we were treated to a
marvelous song from the choir with some amusing new lyrics to
the tune of "Iím getting married in the morning" which
ended with a prayer (same tune!) that we all sang.
How would you describe the after-service
After the groundbreaking, I went to get a cup of coffee in the
parish hall. Nice coffee, not sure if it was fairly traded.
It was help-yourself, which was no doubt efficient, but meant
no one spoke to me. As I hung around in the hall, still no one
spoke (some work to do for the congregation here in welcoming
newcomers) and I eventually left. On the way out, no one stopped
me to ask who I was or where I was from.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 I suspect there is a strong cultural identity of the
English speakers in Paris, which makes this a community center
as well as a church. Maybe it fulfills a need for members of
the congregation to meet with friends, which could be why visitors
are not welcomed so well.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Mostly yes Ė certainly the groundbreaking did (maybe that was
helped by the champagne!).
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The groundbreaking: especially the way they involved the old
and the young in the digging.
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