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|2537: St Luke's,
New York City
New York City.
Church in America, Metropolitan
New York Synod.
A traditional structure, rectangular, built in 1922-23. There
is an exquisitely carved wooden reredos behind the altar, and
stained glass windows on the east wall brought from one of the
parish's previous locations. The nave was extensively renovated
in 1990, when the current organ was also installed. The building
was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2007.
The parish has an unusual history. Its origins lie in a Dutch
Reformed parish from which a group split in 1850. That group
affiliated itself with the New York Ministerium in 1853 and
shortly thereafter adopted "The German Evangelical Lutheran
Congregation of Saint Luke's" as its official name. In
1880 they resigned from the Ministerium, and for over a century
continued as an independent Lutheran church. They joined the
newly-constituted Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in
1987. Today St Luke's sponsors Bible study groups, a soup kitchen
serving up 160-220 meals two days a week, and a clothing bank
that distributes new or little-used clothing one day each month.
As they are located in Manhattan's theater district, and many
of the parishioners are musicians and actors, they present a
"Soup Song Cabaret" twice a year to raise funds for the soup
kitchen. They celebrate the eucharist each Sunday at 11.00am,
and each Wednesday at 12.10pm and 7.00pm. They on occasion worship
with a nearby Episcopal parish, St Clement's.
One and a half blocks from Times Square, in the heart of New
York's theater district.
The Revd Paul D. Schmiege, pastor, presided at the eucharist
and preached. Ernie Vickroy was lector. Roy Feldhusen was organist
and directed the choir.
The date & time:
Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 5, 2013, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
55-60 present, in a building that I estimate could seat 300.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
An usher handed us a bulletin. Pastor Schmiege was also in the
back of the church and greeted us warmly, asking us where we
were from, etc.
Was your pew comfortable?
Quite comfortable. Pull-down kneelers in the pew in front, which were not used in this service.
How would you describe the pre-service
Conversation from the narthex filtered into the church, though
when Mr Feldhusen began his prelude, the mood became quieter
and more reverent.
What were the exact opening words of the
Pastor Schmiege announced that the service would begin with
the thanksgiving for baptism on page 97 of Evangelical Lutheran
Worship; then: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation use during the
Evangelical Lutheran Worship, a combination hymnal/service
book "commended for use" in the ELCA in 2006.
What musical instruments were played?
A two-manual Walcker mechanical action pipe organ. There was
also a grand piano, which was not used for this service.
Did anything distract
St Luke's has not gone the route of the all-inclusive service
booklet that so many parishes use these days (points, as they're
not killing nearly as many trees), so keeping up with the lessons,
sung psalm, intercessions, etc., all the while trying to follow
along in the worship book, took some juggling. After a couple
of weeks worshipping with these folks, I'm sure it would all
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
A formal, evangelical-catholic liturgy, followed by some very
informal announcements. The presider was vested in chasuble,
and he began the service with a generous sprinkling of water
after the thanksgiving for baptism. I noticed him also discretely
bowing at the name of Jesus. The prayer of the day, preface
dialogue, introduction to the memorial acclamation, concluding
doxology to the eucharistic prayer, and the Lord's Prayer were
all beautifully chanted (this congregation sings magnificently
the Lord's Prayer was perfectly in tune). Even more impressive,
the chant was all unaccompanied the obtrusive organ accompaniments
for the presider's chants one frequently finds in North American
Lutheran churches were blissfully absent. And there was an explicit
breaking of the bread during the Lamb of God. Communion was
received standing, the wine taken from a common chalice.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 Informal, but never condescending. Pastor Schmiege
easily kept his congregation's attention. He spoke of his college
years, his first time away from home for substantial periods,
and how his parents would write regularly but how he replied
less frequently. He said he knew then for the first time what
it means to be alone.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The gospel was John 14:23-29 (Jesus will go to the Father, who
will send the Holy Spirit). Jesus' "table talk" with
his disciples before his betrayal and crucifixion, as reported
in John's gospel, must have been confusing and difficult for
the disciples to understand. But they had to learn, just as
he had years earlier, that you cannot stay home forever; to
take flight, you must let go.
Which part of the service was like being in
Well, almost everything: beautiful liturgy, superb preaching,
a congregation that sings. I was a little worried during Mr
Feldhusen's prelude, which was a bit tentative, but he proved
to be a superb liturgical organist and accompanist.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well ... there were those announcements. It's the custom at
St Luke's to ask all visitors to stand, tell the congregation
where they are from, what brought them to New York, etc. I usually
don't do well with this sort of thing, but Materfamilias and
I survived, thanks in part to Pastor Schmiege's warmly welcoming
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
This is one of the friendliest congregations I have encountered.
A couple of members of the congregation who had Michigan ties
asked us about the flooding we had recently experienced back
home in Michigan, and came up to speak to us.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
I had honestly looked forward to the chance to mingle with my
fellow-worshippers after the service (not always the case),
but, alas, the first Sunday in May is the date for their annual
congregational meeting. So Materfamilias and I made our way
to a restaurant up the street for omelets and tea.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 With a son and newly-arrived grandson in New York,
we will certainly be visiting several times a year, and I had
actually made a short-list of churches that I thought might
make for interesting Mystery Worshipper reports. But I think
I will now have to leave these to my fellow Mystery Worshippers.
Materfamilias and I are both looking forward to a return visit
to St Luke's. This will be our New York church home. My only
regret is that it is over 700 miles from Michigan.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
How generous Pastor Schmiege was with the water during the sprinkling
rite. And the warm welcome we received from this congregation.
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