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2422: Christ Church, Tarrytown, New York, USA
Christ Church, Tarrytown, NY (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: William Dewy.
The church: Christ Church, Tarrytown, New York, USA.
Denomination: The Episcopal Church, Diocese of New York.
The building: The brick exterior was inviting and the interior was an interesting style. I do not know the age of the building, but off to one side by the baptismal font is a large memorial celebrating the early 19th century American author Washington Irving, who made his home in Tarrytown and served as a vestryman and warden of Christ Church; his box pew is preserved there. The church appears to have undergone significant renovation sometime in the late 19th century. The earliest stained glass window is from about 1850 and the most recent is from the 1960s. The altar stands against the east wall, but a free standing table was used for the eucharist. To the right is the baptismal font and to the left is a large space, the St Mark Chapel, which had its pews moved to the far side. The resulting space could be used as a play area for children while allowing the caregivers to participate in the church service.
The church: The parish family is very friendly. Seldom have I been in a place more inclusive and welcoming. The English language service is followed by a Spanish language eucharist. The rector is bi-lingual, but there is also a lay pastor for the Spanish speaking Mission Parroquial San Marcos. The English congregation were encouraged to attend a special meeting on immigration laws in support of their brothers and sisters in the Church.
The neighborhood: Tarrytown is a charming village on the Hudson River about 25 miles north of midtown Manhattan at the point on the river which the Dutch colonists called the Tappan Zee due to its extraordinary width (three miles). Washington Irving mentioned the village by name in his short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," which recounts the adventures of the lovelorn schoolmaster Ichabod Crane and his encounter with a ghost known as the Headless Horseman. Attractions include Sunnyside, the historic residence of Washington Irving. Thereís also the usual assortment of antique shops, upscale restaurants and tourist boutiques.
The cast: The Revd Susan Copley, rector, was celebrant and preacher.
The date & time: Sunday, July 29, 2012 9.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist.

How full was the building?
Forty-five to fifty people were present in a church that could hold a few hundred. We mostly sat in the front quadrant of the church, as that was where a huge fan was providing the best ventilation on this very warm day. Because we werenít spread out over the whole church, it felt rather full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Mrs Dewy and I arrived a little before the ushers did. The rector herself greeted us. We had a nice chat about the Tarrytown area and she pointed out Washington Irvingís pew. She suggested we sit in front, "where the fans are."

Was your pew comfortable?
The wooden pew with padded seat was fine for sitting, although the fold-down kneeler was terribly uncomfortable. It was an awkward distance from the seat and too far under the pew in front. The congregation did not appear to use the kneelers.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Friendly and chatty without being disruptive. The organist played a medley of hymns as a prelude.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it, and stand and sing hymn number 448."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Book of Common Prayer 1979, The Hymnal 1982 and Wonder, Love and Praise.

What musical instruments were played?
A pipe organ and a baby grand piano, but not at the same time.

Did anything distract you?
It was very warm in the church. An electric fan was circulating the warm air and there were hand fans available in the pews. The celebrant and servers did not vest, presumably because of the heat.

Christ Church, Tarrytown, NY (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was friendly and informal. I found it odd that while the people did not kneel for the confession, they did kneel to receive communion. To do so, the faithful walked up a few stairs, past the table serving as the altar, and to the communion rail surrounding the altar fixed against the wall.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
18 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – The Revd Mrs Copley engaged the attention of everybody present. Smiling, she told the Bible story in a way that both children and adults could follow.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Her sermon centered on the juxtaposition of Godís justice and mercy. David in the Old Testament was a righteous king, but he engaged in deceitful practices to cover up his sin. We often may find ourselves in situations where we ask, "How did I get into this trouble?" Brokenness and surrender are necessary for God to take us and fill us with his love. In scripture and modern times. people want to use Jesus for their own agenda. Instead, we should endeavor to be used by Jesus for Godís purposes.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The overall friendliness of the whole experience of community that I felt as a visitor.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Generally during the liturgy, the servers seemed to be lacking focus or function. They seemed just to be standing around staring blankly into the congregation.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A few individuals from the congregation introduced themselves and invited us to coffee hour, which was in a building a couple doors down from the church.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was nice. The parish hall had a large room with a wooden floor and lots of natural light from windows. The coffee was served in ceramic mugs and there was fresh fruit, coffee cake and doughnuts.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – Preaching, though sometimes wonderful, is less important to me than music and liturgy. The communityís attitude seemed to be that God is on vacation in the summertime. The lack of vestments, the lack the serversí focus, and the generally weak singing lead me to believe that while the church family is important here, the liturgy isnít.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The beautiful stained glass.
 
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