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451: Trinity, Boston, Massachusetts
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Trinity, Boston, Massachusetts
Mystery Worshipper: Eagle Eye.
The church: Trinity, Copley Square, Boston, Massachusetts.
Denomination: Episcopal Church of the USA.
The building: A large Romanesque basilica. Officially – a masterpiece of Victorian era architect H.H. Richardson, completed in the late 19th century and still allegedly on the list of the most important buildings in the USA. Unofficially – a vast Victorian pile of stone in the center of the city. The interior is heavily ornamented, but, except for the altar area, seems dimly lit. The altar, flanked by two enormous displays of flowers and fruit, appears to be white marble with gold mosaic on the front.
The neighbourhood: The church dominates Copley Square in the heart of Boston's Back Bay area. The church is reflected in the mirrored surface of the John Hancock building directly across the street and faces the Boston Public Library. There are a couple of five-star hotels in the neighborhood as well as some upscale shopping areas and stores.
The cast: The preacher was the Rev. Mary E. Conroy. Others in the chancel party were not identified. There seemed to be a whole platoon of clergy and servers at the altar. The communion rail goes all the way around the altar, so service was speedy despite the numbers.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist for the Last Sunday after Pentecost – Christ the King. 9.00am.

How full was the building?
About 2/3 full on the main floor. The galleries were empty. As I understand it the crowd was sparse, in view of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The usher handed us the bulletin with a pleasant "hello".

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. The pews are generously sized, both in terms of seat space and in distance between the pews. The kneelers are individual little stools covered in needlepoint, which are too spongy and not quite wide enough.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quietly bustling.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymnal 1982. Most of the service was in the bulletin, including the service music. The actual prayer of consecration could be followed in the Book of Common Prayer.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
The building is spectacular, so there was plenty to look at – stained glass, mosaics, etc. Still, there is a tiny little piece of glass missing in one of the windows above the altar...

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Elegantly done middle-of-the-road Episcopal, using the contemporary language version (Rite II, Prayer C).

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes, 30 seconds (not that I was counting).

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
I'd give her an 8. She was well prepared and made the lessons clear to the congregation.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
While we celebrate the Kingship of Christ today, we look ahead to Advent, both marking his birth and thinking about his coming again. Christ is a king who led by example, not by fiat, and while he hung on the cross instead of enumerating the sins which had been committed against him, he started with the words "Father, forgive..."

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music was absolutely over the top, led by a very able organist and 60-voice choir, with hymn tunes (Ashgrove and Crimond) used as part of the service music, a Ralph Vaughn Williams anthem ("Let all the world"), wonderful hymns ("When morning gilds the skies," "Crown him with many crowns") and a bold postlude.

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

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
To be fair, we didn't do that. We stayed with a hundred or so others until the postlude was done and applauded the organist. A good sized group appeared to be headed to one of the several adult educational offerings, starting a few minutes after the service concluded. Following the adult ed, there is another service. In view of the holiday weekend, the regular church school and youth programs were not being offered.

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)?
If I lived here, I'd be in the choir in a heartbeat. I really liked the evident diversity and interesting educational offerings. The only thing holding me back is the size of the place. There are 2,500 families in this parish – far more than live in my hometown. Still I'd give it a 10.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Very much so.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The singable service music.
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