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279: Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Newark, New Jersey, USA
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Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Newark, New Jersey
Mystery Worshipper: Reginald Somerset Ward.
The church: Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Newark, New Jersey, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: Magnificent French Gothic, clearly patterned on Notre Dame, though the construction on this building began less than 100 years ago and, having been interrupted by the world wars, was only completed during the 1950s. It is worth visiting the cathedral's website (see link above) just for the virtual tour. Behind the sanctuary, there are small chapels, each dedicated to the patron saints of the many lands from which the immigrants who constructed the cathedral came. The cathedral received the distinction of being a "basilica" during the visit of John Paul II in 1995.
The neighbourhood: Aside from the huge archdiocesan office building across the street, the neighborhood is sadly depressed, with bars on residence windows testifying to the high crime rate. The buildings undoubtedly were very nice half a century ago, but the entire effect was rather sad.
The cast: His Excellency, the Most Rev. Theodore E. McCarrick (Archbishop of Newark since the 1980s, now named the Archbishop of Washington DC) and Monsignor Groncki, the rector of the cathedral.
What was the name of the service?
Advent Prayer Service.

How full was the building?
Perhaps 100 people in a building that can hold 10 times that amount. That, I understand, is usual except for special occasions.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No – I was handed the leaflet quite abruptly, and gathered that those at the door were in a rush.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, standard.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Rather quiet, with just a low titter here and there.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Please rise for our opening hymn."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Leaflet for the occasion.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. The organist and song leader were obviously accomplished musicians, but had no chance to display this much since the music was beyond dreadful. The song leader did have an annoying habit of raising her hands straight up at the sides, leaving one to wonder if either Christ had risen or Notre Dame had made a touchdown.

Did anything distract you?
The stained glass windows were so magnificent that I could barely keep my mind on what was around me.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was rather laid back and self-conscious.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
3 – Though there were brief references to the Greek text of the beginning of the Gospel of John, the Archbishop rambled mostly about his new appointment in DC. I've met His Excellency a few times, and he is a friendly and good man, but his oratorical skills are questionable.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
"The word was made flesh and dwelt among us," which, in the Greek text, would have meant "in a tent."

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Observing the marvellous architecture.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
That horrible music!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing – people were talking to those whom they already knew.

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 = terminal)?
3. I am not Roman Catholic, but, if I were, I would search until I found a place where it was not only the building that had an aesthetic sense.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, as does any Christian worship.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
That it would be very nice if, someday, the ICEL comes up with something to match Cranmer's prose and style.
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