2503: Church of the Heavenly Rest, New
this report | Other comments
April 18, 2013
I believe the referenced report is inaccurate in certain ways.
Perhaps you could arrange it to be updated?
The bulletin handed to each worshipper at the service stated: "After
today’s services, join us for coffee, refreshments, and hospitality
in front of the chancel steps. We have an information table in
the narthex where you can learn more about us." I confirmed this
with our communications manager, who oversees all the bulletins
and announcements. I think it is possible your Mystery Worshipper
and his guest misheard.
At any rate, when the service ended, our coffee hour was within
plain sight of the narthex, where a group of 30-50 parishioners
always hang out after the service. Tables with food and coffee
are set up immediately and visibly. Down the aisles, within easy
sight of the narthex, myself, two others greeters with name tags
identifying our roles, and about 30-50 parishioners had already
begun enjoying fellowship and food. All three clergy members stand
near the end of the aisles, close to the narthex, between the pews
and the exit, shaking hands with and greeting worshippers. One
would have to work hard actually to avoid meeting them.
My wife and I and at least one other person from our team of 20
volunteers, plus lay greeters, are on duty after each service to
mingle with newcomers and greet anyone and everyone whom we don't
recognize. That morning we also had a docent (a nice older woman
named Virginia) on duty, sitting at a desk in the narthex looking
official, with brochures about the church and such in front of her,
who could have easily answered a question on where to go for the
coffee hour. It's possible we might miss someone now and then, but
highly unlikely, assuming that visitor is not hiding in a closet
somewhere or quite purposefully keeping to him or herself.
I respectfully request an amendment to the published post, if at
all possible. The church family and staff and I care a lot about
our church's level of warmth and welcome and our reputation in the
community, and would like to have a fair representation online.
I will admit, though, that there are certainly some stuffy, historically
overly-formal parts of living and worshipping on the Upper East
Side of New York City. Church of the Heavenly Rest is not one of
them. The warmth of our parishioners is sincere and contagious.
Come visit and you'll see!
Your blog post has been read by our team of 20 volunteer greeters,
our clergy, and our vestry. Thanks for the insights, and thanks
for striving to for accuracy.
Acton Bell replies:
What we experienced was accurately represented in my report. Both
my friend and I felt a bit anonymous. Nobody sought us out as newcomers
before the service, and nobody came to our aid when we stood in
our pew looking lost at the end of the service. And no, neither
of us was "hiding in a closet somewhere or quite purposefully
keeping to [ourselves]."
In fact, I would argue that we gave looking for the coffee hour
more of an effort than a casual visitor would, since I wanted to
attend for the sake of the report. Neither of us thought to look
behind us at the chancel, especially as we both heard that coffee
was to be in the narthex. We did, however, check the coffee house
next door, thinking that it might be there.
I must say that I find this comment incredibly distressing, as it
looks to explain the lack of hospitality we experienced as somehow
our fault. How boorish of us not to have searched more actively
for the coffee hour, or not to have read the bulletin more carefully,
or not to have sought out people to talk to. The suggestion that
what I reported could not possibly have been my actual experience
is particularly distressing.
None of which, I might add, makes me yearn for a repeat visit, as
it all seems a bit well, dare I say it inhospitable.
I stand by my reporting.
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