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1130: Trinity, Tariffville, Connecticut, USA
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1350: Trinity,        Tariffville, Connecticut, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Liturgist.
The church: Trinity, Tariffville, Connecticut, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: Built of brownstone in the 1870s to replace an earlier building, it is a typical Victorian Gothic small town parish church. There is a postage stamp chancel (small enough that, thankfully, no one ever tried to pull the altar away from the wall) with organ and choir stalls off to one side, and seating for about 200 in the nave. The glass is also mostly Victorian and of mixed artistic quality.
The church: The congregation has grown sharply over the last several years. The parish is very active, with three Sunday services, two adult choirs, a children's choir, a bell choir, two youth groups, and about twenty adult groups ranging from Bible study to various kinds of parish and community service and more.
The neighborhood: Tariffville is a suburb of Hartford but has the look and feel of a small New England town. The parish draws people from ten or twelve neighboring (and some not so neighboring) towns.
The cast: The Rev. Andrew Buchanan, a former assistant at the parish, was celebrant of the eucharist. The Rev. Tom Furrer, rector, led the burial office and preached. The Rev. Paul Rogers, assistant at the parish, officiated at the committal service. The Rev. Deacon Patricia Joy was deacon for the mass. Bryan Bywater, father of the deceased and a candidate for ordination, also took part, as did several lay assistants.
What was the name of the service?
A Liturgy of the Resurrection for Samuel Dunbar Bywater. Samuel had died at birth.

How full was the building?
I only saw four or five empty seats.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
An usher greeted us cordially, handed us service sheets, and told us there were still seats in the front pew.

Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfortable to sit in but a little narrow for kneeling comfortably.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
We arrived with only a minute or two to spare, but by then, at least, it was quiet and reverent.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"I am Resurrection and I am Life."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Hymnal (1982) were all in the pews, but except for one selection from the hymnal everything was printed in the service sheet.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano.

Did anything distract you?
Well, two minor distractions: the stained glass window over the altar depicted Jesus with rather weird looking eyes, and the celebrant's alb (not his own) was too short for him.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was somewhat formal but not at all stiff. It was Rite II (contemporary language), and while Mrs Liturgist and I both prefer the traditional forms we nevertheless found it very satisfying – Rite II at its best.

1350: Trinity,        Tariffville, Connecticut, USA

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes, including a three minute closing prayer.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – The preacher spoke from his heart as friend to friend and was also thoroughly biblical. Mrs Liturgist, who had never met him (I know him but not well), felt that she knew him by the time he was through (and I knew him much better also).

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He began with Deuteronomy 29:29: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God." He said he could not explain why Samuel had died but then drew on scripture to give a personal view of hope in the resurrection.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
It was an extremely well organized service. One of the most moving moments occurred when the mostly very grown up congregation sang all three verses of "Jesus loves me" as a solemn tribute to the little boy.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The only thing that bothered me was starting the peace while everyone was still kneeling. We had to struggle – and for me it was a struggle in that tight space – to our feet before we could greet our neighbors.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No chance. After the interment in the churchyard we were all steered into the parish hall for a reception.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
A very nice buffet luncheon had been set out, with quite enough to go around. The only negative here was a lack of unsugared cold beverages. There was hot coffee and tea, but it was a hot day and these didn't go over very well.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – It is too far away, and our own parish offers many of the same things, but we both were very favorably impressed indeed.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, very much so. The loving care of the parish and other friends for the bereaved family was palpable.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The tiny white urn with the baby's ashes, and the singing of "Jesus loves me" which actually brought tears to my eyes.
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