Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington, KY (Exterior)

Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington, Kentucky, USA


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Mystery Worshipper: Bible_and_Rifle
Church: Christ Church Cathedral
Location: Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 25 March 2012, 11:00am

The building

Founded in 1796, Christ Church is the oldest Episcopal church in Kentucky. The current Gothic Revival building consists of a nave and chancel completed in 1848 and transepts and organ space completed in 1864 during the Civil War. The interior of the church is beautiful and seems to have grown organically to meet the needs of a large and thriving cathedral parish. The box pews in the nave remind me of early American traditions. The relatively flat, high ceiling with comfortable proportion reminds me more of Greek Revival architecture. The 1864 addition allowed the organ to be moved out of the chancel and a choir of approximately 50 boys, girls, and adults to fit comfortably into the chancel. The stations of the cross are striking modern paintings brought out only during Lent.

The church

Christ Church has children all over the place – at church school, in the choirs, serving as acolytes. In a time when so many churches are graying, I did not have the gray feeling at Christ Church. As a through traveler to another church, I did not have time to meet and socialize, but there are dozens of programs offered for all age groups.

The neighborhood

Lexington is a city of 280,000 people and is the home of the University of Kentucky. The student enrollment is approximately 25,000, so Lexington is very much a college town. The Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau promotes the area as the home of horses, history and hooch. When I got out to Bourbon County (the primary purpose of my visit), I realized how true that slogan was. On my drive to Bourbon County, I passed 15 miles of thoroughbred horse farms, many of which are open for tours. The history is evident in the old stone walls visible from the highway and the 1776 historical marker. As for hooch, the next county north of Lexington is named Bourbon County.

The cast

The Very Revd Carol L. Wade, dean and rector, presided. Amanda Musterman-Kiser, youth ministries coordinator, was the preacher.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Eucharist Rite II.

How full was the building?

About two-thirds full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

An usher greeted me and handed me a service bulletin.

Was your pew comfortable?

Quite comfortable. Padded seat in a box pew.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

I arrived barely on time due to problems renting a car that morning.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Blessed be the God of our salvation."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Service bulletin and the Hymnal 1982. The Book of Common Prayer was also in the pew rack.

What musical instruments were played?

An appropriately-sized Holtkamp organ.

Did anything distract you?

My own full bladder after a long drive and arriving barely on time. There was nothing about the church or service atmosphere to distract me.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

High-church and lots of music with great integration of children into the service. While not "happy-clappy," I saw loads of winks and nods from adults near me to youth members as they passed in the procession or opened and closed the pew-box doors at communion. On the stiff-upper lip side, no one reached or made eye contact farther than one pew away for a handshake at the peace.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

14 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

6 – Mrs Musterman-Kiser was engaging at first but eventually lost me, I'm afraid. She began by summarizing the children's book by Shel Silverstein entitled The Giving Tree and recounting a story about a mother from China whose son had died and who had spent her life searching for a home that had never known sorrow.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Her text was John 12:24 ("Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth...") We should all let part of ourselves die during Lent in order to live more fully in the future.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Music, young families, and vitality.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

Seeing only white faces in a large, urban, southern USA congregation.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

After the service, I listened to the postlude while most of the congregation left. I finally went to greet the dean.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There is no after-service coffee for the late service because the church serves hot breakfast between the services. (Donuts only in the summer.)

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

9 – I liked the joyful atmosphere and their emphasis on youth.

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

Yes. Joyful music and lots of families in church.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

Great choir in a family-friendly church.

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