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666: St Bernard's, Bernardsville, New Jersey, USA
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St Bernard's Episcopal Church New Jersey
Mystery Worshipper: Sumtil.
The church: St Bernard's, Bernardsville, New Jersey, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal.
The building: Built during the early 20th century, the church and the parish house capture the "gothic English country church" atmosphere most successfully. The church is small but elegantly appointed. The grounds have large beautiful trees. Because the service was held after sunset, it was impossible to see the stained glass.
The church: Somerset Hills is an above average area in terms of income and St Bernard's has "wealth" written all about. The parish is involved in supporting local groups which provide assistance to those not so fortunate such as a soup kitchen, food bank, etc.
The neighbourhood: Within walking distance of downtown Bernardsville, the parish is located in a beautiful residential neighbourhood. One restaurant and a few stores are nearby.
The cast: Rev. Frederick S. Baldwin, rector, officiant and preacher; Rev. Stephen M. Rozzelle and Rev. Chester Kim, lectors; Steven R. Lawrence, organist and choirmaster.
What was the name of the service?
Festival evensong for the solemnity of All Saints.

How full was the building?
Possibly 50 people in a building that will comfortably seat 200 or so.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A warm handshake from the ushers and a friendly "Good evening and welcome." One was also welcomed by the wonderful aroma of incense. An informative sheet, "Adjusting your ears for evensong," was given to each worshipper. It was an aid to those who might not be familiar with the service.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was the standard one – not uncomfortable – but not a seat that one would want to sit in for two hours. The kneelers are magnificent with each having a different design. One must assume that they were worked by members and friends of the Parish. The cushions in the choir stalls and the cushions and kneelers in the sanctuary were also stunning.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was just enough whispering to distract me from the organ voluntary. One wonders if they would talk during the opening work at a concert or recital.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"O God, make speed to save us."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Book of common prayer 1979 and the hymnal 1982. Much of the order of service was printed in the leaflet.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ only.

Did anything distract you?
The thurifer sitting in the elegant and beautifully carved bishop's chair, the athletic shoes worn by the crucifer, and the officiant vested in cassock, surplice, scarf and cope. At a festal (solemn) evensong, either a stole or nothing is worn under the cope. A pleasant and different distraction was the presence of the paschal candle in the choir to remind us that we are "Resurrection people." Most moving.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was a very successful combination of cathedral and congregational evensong. The canticles and the anthem were beautifully sung by the choir.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
6 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – He preached from notes but did not have a stiff presentation.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
This service was a commemoration not only of All Saints' Day but also a remembrance of September 11, 2001. The preacher pointed out that we belong to eternity as do the saints and those who lost their lives on 9/11, and that we are called to bring peace and love.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Definitely the music. From the voluntary before evensong to the voluntary after, the music offered to God was a joy to listen to and the organist's playing of the hymns was an inspiration and a call to sing.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The lack of participation by most of the congregation and that most of them simply did not seem to enjoy worshipping. The absolutely poor job of proof reading in the pew sheet: Revelations for Revelation; riche for rich, referring to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer as the first Archbishop of Canterbury when in fact he was the 70th.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Absolutely no chance whatever for that. The rector invited all to a reception in the great hall of the parish house.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Delicious sandwiches and other goodies, champagne and champagne punch, cider, coffee and tea in abundance. A veritable feast. Warm and friendly conversation.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – I would consider it if I lived closer to the parish.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The music. It was an inspiration. The organist's ability to communicate his love of God by his playing and choir training is a model for all musicians in the church.
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