|713: Trinity Episcopal, Milford, Massachusetts, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Flounder.
The church: Trinity Episcopal, Milford, Massachusetts.
Denomination: Episcopal Church, USA.
The church: The parish members seem to be a close-knit group.
The neighbourhood: Milford is a large, fast growing suburb of Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts. The church is located near the town center, which has been somewhat abandoned in favor of the ubiquitous strip malls. The center has some beautiful old buildings as well as a lot of ugly utilitarian public buildings which date from the mid-fifties. The area looks barren because, sadly, a large number of gorgeous old trees have been cut down; this was once a very pretty area.
The cast: The Reverend Paul J. Andersen, rector, three unnamed lay readers and a young lady who carried the cross for the processional and recessional. She looked as though she were about 12.
What was the name of the service?
The Celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
How full was the building?
Full to capacity. People filled the pews and extra chairs had to be set up in back.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I got there rather early, so at first there was nobody at the door. As I sat down, I noticed the rector preparing the altar. He was concentrating on what he was doing, so he didn't seem to notice as I hesitated for a moment before I sat. A few minutes later, an usher came in, saw me, and said hello. She was very friendly and we talked and laughed for a few minutes.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a standard straight-backed uncomfortable wooden pew. Much to my chagrin, the edge near the aisle had a sharp steeply raised edge so I couldn't drape my arm over it and get comfortable. I really needed to be able to hang onto the seat somehow because the pews were so polished that the cushion and I kept slipping. The kneelers were comfortable but too close to the pew in front of me – if the person in front didn't want to kneel, you were stuck rudely breathing down their neck.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was fairly quiet and reverent until the organ prelude started. Then people gabbed incessantly.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Alleluia! Christ is risen!"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the 1982 Hymnal.
What musical instruments were played?
A small pipe organ and an amateur choir of about 12 people.
Did anything distract you?
There were lots of little babies and kids babbling, crying and running about, especially during the sermon. One two year old girl kept kicking the back of my pew and squealing loudly in my ear.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
This was a smells and bells service. The priest sang the liturgy pretty well; however, since he is a tenor, the responses were too high for the congregation. The incense was swung around the altar a few times and someone jangled a bell during the sung Gloria.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – It was very difficult to concentrate on the sermon due to the noise all of the young children and babies were making, plus I kept getting kicked in the back of my pew. The sermon seemed rather dry, and the humor forced.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Life is full of anxiety and uncertainty. The message behind Easter is that God will always be with us, no matter what. Therefore, there is nothing to fear from any of the obstacles we face.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The friendly usher.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Communion. It was a hurried, detached affair, lacking warmth. Perhaps I am spoiled by the priest at my own church who takes our hands firmly, looks into our eyes and really prays with each of us briefly as he gives us the wafer.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Parishoners looked at me quizzically but nobody said hello, presumably because they were preoccupied and wanted to go home to dinner. After waiting for several minutes, I stepped into line and got an assembly line style greeting, "Alleluia! Christ is Risen!" There was no friendly inquiry as to who I was or even any direct eye contact.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
As far as I know, there was none. There was no invitation to come to coffee in the handout or in any announcement.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – The music was uninspiring. I am a musician and this is a pet peeve of mine. There is a lot of excellent, not too demanding, music available in the public domain which would be appropriate for amateur groups. However, I was most troubled by the lack of warmth in the service, in spite of it being liturgically beautiful.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It didn't change my feelings one way or the other.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The boisterous children and babies.