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618: Trinity, Asheville, North Carolina, USA
Other reports | Comment on this report
Trinity Church, Asheville, NC, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Preacher's Kidd.
The church: Trinity, Asheville, North Carolina, USA.
Denomination: Episcopalian.
The building: American Victorian Gothic.
The church: This is a very large and active parish, with a nice mix of ages, including a fair number of very well behaved children. We did not, however, see a single non-caucasian in the congregation.
The neighbourhood: This church is situated in the downtown business district. I don't think there is a residential area within five or six miles.
The cast: William Whisenhunt, rector; Richard Gimball Jr, assistant to the rector.
What was the name of the service?
Pentecost 16, Holy Eucharist, Rite II.

How full was the building?
Maybe three-quarters full, but that was still about 300 people, and this was the second service of the day.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We got a warm smile from the usher when we arrived, and were asked if we "needed anything". The people around us all shook hands with us during the Peace.

Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfortable, with attached kneelers and plenty of leg room.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A certain amount of quiet bustle as people got settled, but it was "covered" by the organ prelude.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, and welcome to Trinity Church."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A booklet with the entire service printed in it, including the words to the hymns. The pews had been removed and refinished, and just reinstalled the day before, but the book racks had not yet been replaced. There were neither prayer books nor hymnals, but the hymns were familiar, so there was no stumbling over the tune.

What musical instruments were played?
A lovely pipe organ.

Did anything distract you?
The children came in from Sunday School after, rather than during, the offertory (or there were so many it took a long time), so the celebrant was left holding his hands up for a few moments at the beginning of the great thanksgiving. (Other churches should have this problem!)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very high church in many aspects, but they had a special prayer station off to the side, where one could request special prayers from an intercessor. We did not participate in this, but it was tempting.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
8 minutes.

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

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The Gospel text was, "If any man sin against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone." Fr. Whisenhunt said most of us are more inclined to talk behind people's backs than to their faces. We rather offer advice when it isn't requested (who, me?) and generally act exactly opposite what the Lord expects. Good points, delivered with gentle humor.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Chanting the psalms in unison. Lovely.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well, not hell exactly... just that very little seemed to have changed following our previous visit, at least as far as the congregation is concerned.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Fr. Bill welcomed us sincerely, and turned us over to his assistant, who directed us to the coffee hour. (Neither of them seemed to turn up in the hall, however.) We each got a cup of coffee and then stood alone, staring at the floor, looking at the pictures on the walls, and so on until we finally gave up and left. While Mr Kidd was off getting the car, three women on the sidewalk struck up a conversation with Mrs Kidd, and were very interested in who we were and where we were from. Once you get them separated from the "herd", they are very nice people! I think the church is so large they don't always see the "stranger in their midst". Although I dislike Visitor Badges and such, it might be a good idea here.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Fresh hot coffee, plus water for tea, served in mugs with the church's "Trinity Triangle" printed on them. Lots of goodies, which appeared to be homemade. Also, there was juice and cereal for the children.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – We last visited this church three years ago, and actually this time was a little better. The rector and other clergy seem genuinely friendly (we even received a hand-written note a week later from Fr. Bill) but the congregation doesn't get the message.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The nice ladies on the sidewalk.
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