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Church, Grosse Pointe, Michigan, USA
Christ Church, Grosse Pointe, Michigan, USA.
The Episcopal Church, Diocese of Michigan.
The building: A
smallish, neo-Gothic structure, the church dates from 1930 and
is the work of the noted ecclesiastical architect Bertram Grosvenor
Goodhue. It is beautifully appointed, with a carved English
oak reredos and ten exquisite stained glass windows. These are
just a couple of the many treasures contained inside the church,
which is modeled on English cathedral design. Detailed information
is given on the parish's elegant website. The building is on
the National Register of Historic Places.
The church: There
is wide breadth to the activities of this parish, including
Christian formation, a renowned music program, bereavement ministries,
hunger ministries and social justice outreaches. The music program
is extraordinary, with four choirs and an extensive concert
series. Christ Church choirs have toured English cathedrals,
and have sung at St Peter's Basilica in Rome. The range of Christian
formation activities is equally broad, including a bookstore,
a Center for Spirituality, a labyrinth, and an endowed lecture
series. It is an inclusive congregation. There are three eucharists
each Sunday morning, at 8.00, 9.00, and 11.15, and often a fourth
service at 4:30 in the afternoon (Celtic worship, evensong,
lessons and carols, or a concert).
The neighborhood: Grosse
Pointe Farms is one of five cities known collectively as the
Grosse Pointe Communities. They lie east of Detroit, on the
coast of Lake St Clair, and together have a population of approximately
46,000. These are highly affluent suburbs of Detroit (and have
been mocked as such on The Simpsons). Christ Church is
right next to a school, but otherwise is surrounded by high-end
The cast: The
celebrant was the Very Revd Dr David Dieter, senior associate
rector and dean of the Emrich Deanery. Gospeller and homilist
was the interim rector, the Revd Dr Andrew MacBeth. Scott Hanoian
directed the choir and shared organ responsibilities with Shari
The date & time: Second
Sunday of Easter, April 15, 2012, 11.15am.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist: Rite II.
How full was the building?
I estimate there was room for 240; there were fewer than 35
of us in the congregation. The various ministers and choir added
perhaps 25 more.
Did anyone welcome you
I was greeted by a very friendly usher, and asked to fill out
a name tag.
Was your pew comfortable?
Quite comfortable. There were individual kneelers under the pews, but we did not kneel in this service.
How would you describe the pre-service
Quiet and reverential.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Alleluia. Christ is risen" to which the congregation
responded "The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia."
What books did the congregation use during the
The Hymnal 1982, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version were in the pews, but only the Hymnal was used; everything else the congregation needed was in the service leaflet.
What musical instruments were played?
A large pipe organ (4,000 pipes) by Harrison and Harrison of Durham, England.
Did anything distract
The celebrant's chasuble, altar frontal, and other paraments
were largely white for the season of Easter but with
large amounts of black trim. All were strikingly beautiful,
but I was initially taken aback about seeing so much black on
the Second Sunday of Easter. A few rows in front of me there
was a young couple with their newborn baby (most of the congregation
was older); I could not believe how well-behaved this young
one was, although he/she had had enough by the middle of the
sermon and one of the parents had to take him/her out for a
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
A formal liturgy; in terms of the Episcopal Church, fairly middle-of-the-road.
The Revd Dr Dieter chanted much of the service from the offertory
on, and did so beautifully. We were given the choice of receiving
communion at the altar rail, kneeling; or at a station in front
of the chancel, standing.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
8 The Revd Dr MacBeth was very low key, but effective.
He started out by noting that earlier in the week he had been
driving through farmland in West Michigan, and had seen various
religious signs, including one that read: "Jesus is coming
back." He then realized, he said, that he didn't believe
that; it implies that Jesus is not here now.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
HIs text was John 20:19-31 (the risen Jesus appears to the apostles
and to the doubting Thomas). Jesus greeted the apostles with
"Peace," or "Shalom." Given the behavior
of some of the disciples at his crucifixion, one might have
expected a more remonstrative greeting. Jesus was no longer
confined to time and space he enters through a locked
door. But his is also not just a spiritual presence Thomas
is able to put his hand in Jesus' side. Jesus gave the disciples
no explanations, nor does he give us any now. The disciples
formed quite an unusual community one in which all of
its members had failed at something. Each of us, too, has failed
at one thing or another, and so we should feel right at home
Which part of the service was like being in
You can probably count on your fingers the number of parishes
in North America with music this impressive on what is sometimes
called Low Sunday: two movements from a Duruflé mass,
a chorale setting by the late 16th century German master Johannes
Eccard, and the psalm chanted to a setting by Gibbons. It was
all done exquisitely, and we were treated to three Bach chorales
as prelude music.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well ... there were so few of us in the congregation that I
fear the hymn-singing in the nave was nothing at all to compare
to what we heard from the chancel. And there were bulletin gremlins
two sequence hymns were listed, but only one of the two
was sung; needless to say, I went for the wrong one, and missed
close to half of the one that was actually sung. (Even the hymn
boards listed two sequence hymns.)
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I sat in my pew and listened to Mr Hanoian's postlude, a fanfare
by the Anglo-American organist and composer John Cook, as did
another dozen or so congregants. As I walked out after the postlude,
most of the congregation had scattered. I ran into the Revd
Dr Dieter, who asked where I was from; we chatted briefly. He
was quite friendly.
How would you describe the after-service
There was none.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 There is quite a lot going on in this parish, and the range of their social justice ministries is impressive. Their worship is high enough, yet not particularly stuffy. And I would be worshipping in a small enough congregation to feel a sense of community.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, it did.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Black for Easter! The chasuble and altar frontal.
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