|682: Trinity Cathedral, Miami, Florida, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Romuald.
The church: Trinity Cathedral, Miami, Florida, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church of the USA.
The building: A dignified and substantial cream-painted building dating from the 1920s. The back-to-the-people altar is surmounted by a restrained Romanesque baldacchino, supported by green marble columns, but the apse is overpowered by massive mosaics covering the entire rear wall. Polychromed capitals and more mosaics above the cloistered ambulatories create a rather gaudy effect. The stained glass is quite beautiful, the acoustic shell over the pulpit a rarely seen survivor of a bygone era.
The church: A mixed congregation which neatly mirrored Miami's population: African-American, Anglo and Latino, gay and straight, young(ish) and ageing.
The neighbourhood: A little north of the city, the cathedral has become increasingly hemmed in by towering tourist hotels and a busy access road to the beach, but manages to retain an aura of peace and beauty, surrounded by manicured lawns and palm trees, beautifully maintained, and flanked by a meditation garden.
The cast: The Rev. Canon Mark H. Sims.
What was the name of the service?
Holy eucharist at 10.00am.
How full was the building?
About 150 people in a church that seats over 1,000.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, greeters stood at all doors, welcoming people as they handed out service leaflets.
Was your pew comfortable?
No it was a standard wooden pew that became increasingly uncomfortable as the service went on.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and subdued; during the voluntary, some regulars semaphored greetings to one another across the vast expanses until a lusty introit from the choir settled everyone down.
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?
A printed service leaflet, the Book of Common Prayer 1979, and the Hymnal 1982.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
A late arrival sat in front of us and had trouble sitting still: he twitched and jerked, knelt and sat, stood and swayed, ate mints and muttered. Initially I suspected either ADD or haemorrhoids, but later when his wife began giving him a massage in the pew I decided the poor man had a very sore back and was in pain.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Restrained, dignified, middle-of-the-road Anglo-Catholic.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Just short of 20 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 The canon got off to a great start, kept the congregation's attention for about 10 minutes, flagged in the back straight and then rallied for the finish.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Using the theophany of Elijah and the transfiguration of Jesus as examples, the preacher asserted that significant experiences of God's presence were invitations to mission. Our own mission was to be discerned by listening to Jesus.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
At the end of the intercessions, the celebrant called for a minute's silence in which to pray for peace: the silence and earnestness of the congregation was palpable and very moving.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
During a particularly dry patch, about 15 minutes into the sermon, the poor soul in front appeared to go into a spasm, let out an audible moan and threw himself on his knees. I sympathized entirely.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were thanked for attending and invited to coffee hour in the nearby hall. Unfortunately time restraints did not permit us to accept.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 I think a cathedral service like this is great for visitors large scale, anonymous, entertaining but I didn't experience any desire to belong.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes there was a stillness and prayerfulness that nourished the spirit.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Ushers stand at the sanctuary steps to assist communicants up and down the stairs: the wonderfully dignified, silver haired verger helped everyone down her assigned stairs, whether we needed assistance or not, taking our hands, looking us in the eye and thanking us for coming: it was a warm and gracious gesture, and provided that human touch.