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|2436: St James,
Hyde Park, New York, USA
Worshipper: Dietrich Knickerbocker.
James, Hyde Park, New York, USA.
Episcopal Church, Diocese
of New York.
Opened in 1844 and nestled in a lush green woodland setting,
St James Church is a small but beautiful example of the Gothic
Revival style. The interior is long and narrow, with whitewashed
walls and ribbed arched wooden ceiling. Dark red carpeting
covers the floor. The sanctuary is simple, with a large east
window letting in plenty of light behind a simple wooden altar.
The church was badly damaged by a fire several years ago,
and all the stained glass had to be replaced. Several memorial
plaques were also lost in the fire.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was born in Hyde
Park and who often spent time at the family estate throughout
his presidency, was baptized at St James and served on the
vestry. The funeral of Eleanor Roosevelt, who died in 1962,
was held here. Although President and Mrs Roosevelt are buried
at the Roosevelt estate, the earthly remains of several notable
figures rest in St James churchyard. Among these are Henrietta
Nesbitt, a personal friend of Mrs Roosevelt, who served as
cook and housekeeper at the White House during FDR’s presidency;
and Dr Samuel Bard, personal physician to George Washington
and co-founder of the medical school at Kings College (now
Columbia University). Today the parish sponsors all the usual
ministries as documented on their website. Guided tours of
the graveyard are offered by lantern light and are generally
sold out. There are two services each Sunday: a Rite I service
and family worship using Rite II, plus Sunday school.
Hyde Park (not to be confused with New Hyde Park, which is
located on Long Island) is a village on the east bank of the
Hudson River about 80 miles north of New York City. First
settled in 1710, it was named in honor of Edward Hyde, governor
of the British colonies of New York and New Jersey from 1701-1708,
although what was being honored is an open question. Hyde,
a moral profligate and reputed cross-dresser (he is said to
have presided over the opening of the New York Assembly dressed
as Queen Anne), is generally regarded as possibly the worst
governor Britain ever imposed on an American colony. The village
includes some interesting historic structures such as the
early 19th century Dutch Reformed church and the post office
in the Dutch Colonial Revival style, a product of President
Roosevelt’s New Deal. The F.D. Roosevelt Library and Home,
a national historic site, is situated south of the village;
Eleanor Roosevelt’s private retreat, Val-Kil, is nearby. St
James Church sits north of the village, across the road from
the estate of Gilded Age railroad tycoon Frederick Vanderbilt,
now also a national historic site.
The Revd Charles Kramer ("Father Chuck"), rector.
The date & time:
Sunday, September 9, 2012, 8.00am.
What was the name of
Rite I Worship with Holy Eucharist.
How full was the building?
There was room for about 200, and there were about 40 people
present. I sat toward the middle, but most of the others sat
behind me. The front several rows were empty.
Did anyone welcome you
As I got out of my car, Father Chuck was walking over to the
church from the rectory. He greeted me and asked me where
I was visiting from, and said I was most welcome. Inside,
no one had much of anything to say to me, although there was
much handshaking during the exchange of peace.
Was your pew comfortable?
No. Narrow and straight-backed, with hassock kneelers.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
I walked around the churchyard before going inside. It had
rained heavily the night before, and everything was quite
damp. Crows were caw-cawing in the trees. Spooky! Once inside
the church, I noticed quite a
bit of loud talking at the back, but people were quiet once
they settled into their pews.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome to St James on this beautiful morning."
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
Prayer Book 1982 and a service leaflet.
What musical instruments
None. A tracker organ in the rear gallery stood silent. This
was a spoken service.
Did anything distract
Bright sunlight poured in through the east window. It was
glorious, but the glare made me squint. It also illuminated
several cobwebs crossing the pew a few rows in front of me.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
By-the-book Rite I. Father Chuck was vested in green chasuble.
There were no servers, although two laymen came forward to
assist him during the eucharistic prayer. There were bells
but no incense.
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
8 No complaints here. Well prepared and well delivered.
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
The line between Bible and politics is often blurred. Let
politicians stray across that line if they dare! Unfortunately
the poor have become a political issue: why, some ask, should
we take from the rich to give to the poor? But that’s not
political – it’s biblical! We may always have the poor with
us, as Jesus said, but the poor didn’t choose to be so, nor
do they remain so out of laziness. Today’s gospel lesson (Mark
7:24-37 – the Gentile woman whose daughter was possessed by
a demon remarked to Jesus that even dogs eat the scraps that
fall from the children’s table) shows that there is plenty
for all; the poor are only asking for a little. We must "inform"
politicians with our faith. Instead of asking what the poor
want to "take" from us, we should consider how much
love we will give them.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The sunlight pouring in through the east window was heavenly.
The previous evening's rain had freshened the air, and morning
had dawned clear and crisp – a typical early September morning
in the Northeast.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
To me, the congregation seemed very much attuned to each other
but oblivious to strangers.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Father Chuck began a healing service at the altar. Some went
forward for that, but most visited among themselves as they
left the church. No one took any notice of me.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
There was none.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
5 If they ignored me again on a second visit, I wouldn’t
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Sunbeams and cobwebs.
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