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||1188: Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford, Connecticut,
Mystery Worshipper: Liturgist.
The church: Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford, Connecticut, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: The building was erected in 1827-29 as a parish church
(as it still is). Built of brownstone, it is essentially Georgian with a
gothic tower, interior arches, and windows. The building is a 100' x 70'
rectangle with galleries over the aisles and the narthex and with a recessed
chancel added in 1879. The east end of the nave is brightly painted with
murals on either side of the chancel arch and a heraldic motif extending
over it. The building received major refurbishing in the last few years
and is now quite bright looking. At the same time, the organ was rebuilt
and an antiphonal organ (including a trompette en chamade –
trumpet rank mounted fan-like) was added in the west gallery.
The church: As in many American churches, there are no parish boundaries
and the congregation is drawn from Hartford and the surrounding towns. The
immediate area is definitely "downtown" – not many residents,
and most of these not particularly affluent, but there is an intentional
ministry to those who live and work in the area.
The neighborhood: Hartford is the state capital of Connecticut and
the headquarters of most of America's major insurance companies. Famous
residents of the past include Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle
Tom's Cabin, and her brother, the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, the noted
abolitionist preacher. Like many American cities in the latter part of the
20th century, Hartford has suffered from urban decay, but in recent years
a series of renewal projects has attempted to reverse this trend. The residential
area in which the church was first built has long since disappeared. It
was once a busy shopping area, but much of that too has also gone. But renewal
is in evidence: a community college has taken over a former department store,
and another has become a hotel. There is an active theater, and a large
upscale condominium community is planned for the area as well.
The cast: The officiant was the Very Rev. Mark B. Pendleton, dean
of the cathedral. The sermon was preached by the Very Rev. Richard E. Kilgour,
provost of St Andrew's Cathedral, Aberdeen, Scotland, and honorary canon
of Christ Church Cathedral. The first reading was given by a member of St
Andrew's, Aberdeen, and the second reading by the Rev. Canon J. Allison
St Louis, cathedral vicar. Music was provided by the choir of St Andrew's,
Dr Andrew Morrisson, director, George Chittendon, organ scholar.
The date & time: Friday, October 21, 2005, 5.30pm.
What was the name of the service?
Evensong for the diocesan convention (synod).
How full was the building?
The building seemed about half full (about 200-250), a shame since it had
been well filled for the business of the convention.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Not really, as I had come in quite early to hear the choir practice. I did
have a short chat with the provost of St Andrew's and his wife just at the
end of the practice.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, but as so often happens, a little tight for comfortable kneeling. Of
course, I am a bit on the heavy side.
How would you describe the pre-service
The prelude began at 5.20 and a number of people came in about then, talking
quite loudly and continuing to do so. Since most of these were convention
delegates clergy and committed laity I found this particularly disappointing.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Cantate Domino..." Psalm 96:1-3 sung in Latin as an
What books did the congregation use during the
The entire service except for one hymn was in a provided booklet. The 1982
Hymnal was used for that one hymn.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
Only the talking during the prelude.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
It was a traditional Anglican cathedral evensong at or very near its exuberant best.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 The provost spoke well, with a Scottish burr that was clearly noticeable
but not at all difficult to understand.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The text was from Ephesians 2 (one of the readings), "You are no longer
strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints..." There has
been a long and warm relationship between the Connecticut diocese and that
of Aberdeen Samuel Seabury, the first bishop of Connecticut (and the first
Anglican bishop outside of the British Isles) was consecrated in Aberdeen
and the preacher used this as an illustration of the text. He then developed
the idea that evensong is preeminently a service of the Word, and that it
is this Word that calls us into being as that household.
Which part of the service was like being in
The music all the way through the service, and especially the anthem, "God
is gone up with a triumphant shout," in a 20th century setting that took
full advantage of the trompette rank on the antiphonal organ. The soaring
blend of voices and organ was perfect, and almost literally lifted me out
of the pew.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
It had to be the chatter during the prelude. I rarely do this, but at one
point I had to ask my neighbor (not the worst offender but the closest and
thus the most annoying) to please let me listen to the music.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People did much better at sitting quietly for the postlude. Afterwards people
left with quiet chatter in which I joined.
How would you describe the after-service
There was no coffee or other refreshment after the service as such. There
was a separate dinner and dancing shortly afterwards for convention members
who chose to attend, but I did not.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 There was simply no basis to judge since most of the congregation
and most of the leaders of the service were not from the cathedral. I certainly
hope to have an opportunity to worship at St Andrew's, though I don't think
I'm ready to move to Aberdeen.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Very much so. Any faith that can inspire the writing and performing of so
much beautiful music to the glory of God is one to be rejoiced in.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The music and especially the anthem.
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