St Mary's is a small but traditionally designed church with a barrel vault ceiling. The building is traditionally appointed, the only exception being that the tabernacle has been removed from the central altar and now sits on the gospel side.
St Mary of the Nativity was founded in 1872 and received its name because the first mass was celebrated at the church on Christmas Day of that year. It was made a parish in 1921, and absorbed a smaller parish in North Scituate in 2004. Unusually for a church in the Boston Archdiocese, in addition to the pastor there is always an asistant and a deacon.
Scituate is a coastal community, 28 miles south of Boston, and is said to be one of the oldest towns in the United States. It was once called the Irish Riviera due to the number of working class Irish Americans who kept summer homes in the community. Over the past 20 years it has become an extremely wealthy Boston suburb. Large mansions spring up on a regular basis and expensive SUVs are the vehicle of choice.
The Revd Matthew Westcott, an altar boy and a lector. Four extraordinary ministers appeared for the distibution of communion.
What was the name of the service?Sunday Mass.
How full was the building?
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We arrived about 20 minutes early, and there were only a few elderly women in the church at that time.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, we sat in old wood pews, as found in most churches.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was very quiet and reverential, which actually caught me by surprise.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The congregation used the standard OCP Hymnal that is found in about 90 per cent of all Catholic parishes.
What musical instruments were played?
An electric organ, accompanied by a fairly good choir, which I could not see as they were singing in the choir loft. They sounded to be composed of both children and adults.
Did anything distract you?
Honestly, what really distracted me was how well trained the altar boy was. He bowed between lighting candles, rang the consecration bells with care, and when only his feet were visible you could see that he wore shoes instead of sneakers... I was very impressed. I rarely see this kind of care outside of the traditional Latin mass.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was formal, with no chatting in the pews, no hand-holding, no tambourines, etc.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Excellent. He began with humor, saying that no one could preach on the Trinity for more than five minutes without lapsing into heresy. He worked in complex theological terms, paraphrased when necessary, and ended with more humor.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was about the Holy Trinity, and he used a well known story about Augustine to illustrate our inability to comprehend the majesty of the Trinity.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Right before the mass began, a couple came in with a young girl, and when they went to sit two pews ahead of us, the girl's father gently instructed her on the art and importance of the genuflect.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
They removed most of the children (though not the one belonging to the couple ahead of us) to a "children's liturgy" being held downstairs. I feel children should attend church with their parents. Also, during communion, the choir sang a hymn called "Yahweh, You are Near" by Dan Schutte. The Vatican Congregation of Divine Worship has disallowed the use of "Yahweh" in hymns and prayers.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing, as the church emptied pretty quick, but I did notice a statue of Mother Seton on the way out that I hadn't seen before.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no after-service coffee.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – The community is a bit on the wealthy side, so I don't know if I would really fit in if I tried to become a part of it.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it did.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Either the skill of the altar boy, or the dad with the little girl.