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Wall Street, New York City, New York
Wall Street, New York City, New York. Now, before you say,
"Oh, no, not another report on Trinity Wall Street,"
I want to emphasize that Trinity seems to have changed since
it was last visited by a Mystery Worshipper, for the better
in some ways, for the worse in others. I hope to bring out these
changes via my report. For previous reports, see numbers 1433 and 980.
The Episcopal Church, Diocese
of New York.
As one travels west on Wall Street toward Broadway, one cannot
help but notice the dark, tall-spired edifice sitting in the
shadows at the intersection. The present church, the third to
grace the spot, is a cathedral-like brownstone structure in
the Gothic Revival style. In the churchyard can be found the
graves of several heroes of the newly independent United States,
including most notably Alexander Hamilton. The exterior of the
church, the churchyard, and the interior are all immaculate
and in excellent condition. Inside, the nave is long, narrow
and tall, with colorful stained glass adorning the sanctuary
in contrast to the rather plain windows lining the nave. The
church is a very popular tourist attraction, but residents of
lower Manhattan as well as commuters to the financial district
know Trinity as a quiet place to rest, pray, worship, or enjoy
a noonday concert. The building is listed in the National Register
of Historic Places.
Trinity is a large commercial landowner in downtown New York
City; this provides funds for social service ministries and
various educational programs such as a grants program, 12-step
and AA groups, homeless drop-in center, low income housing,
a pre-school, nursery, and many conferences and other educational
activities. There can also be no doubt that the income provided
by Trinity's real estate holdings is why the building is extremely
well-equipped and maintained. The church itself includes a museum
and welcome center.
The intersection of Broadway and Wall Street is one of the best
known areas in Manhattan. It is at the heart of the financial
district and only a short walk from Ground Zero, perhaps the
largest tourist attraction. Post 9/11, the section of Wall Street
from Broadway down to the New York Stock Exchange has been converted
into a pedestrian mall.
The Revd Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones, priest for pastoral care
and nurture, was the celebrant and preacher. The Revd Dr James
Herbert Cooper, rector, gave the welcome and read the announcements.
Andrew Megill, an associate professor at Westminster Choir College,
Rider University, was the guest choirmaster. Robert Ridgell,
assistant organist, and Isabelle Demers, a doctoral candidate
at the Juilliard School of Music, presided at the organ.
The date & time:
October 12, 2008, 11.15am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Three-quarters to seven-eighths full. The congregation seemed
to be between the ages of 30 and 70; there were also families
with children. They were of various ethnic groups and some were
dressed casually, a few even in jeans, but many were dressed
in their Sunday best. Most were very polite and friendly. Many
smiled at me and said hello.
Did anyone welcome you
An usher welcomed me and handed me a bulletin before I even
got in the door, and then right inside another usher greeted
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. On the wooden pews there were cushions about one to two
inches thick, covered in red velvet.
How would you describe the pre-service
Bustling, with a low hum of voices – not at all too loud.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning!" – the rector's welcome came first.
What books did the congregation use during the
Book of Common Prayer, The Hymnal 1982, and
Lift Every Voice and Sing II.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, about which I'll have more to say in a moment.
Did anything distract
Trinity Wall Street broadcasts its Sunday service live via the
internet. A recent innovation (mention of which is absent in
previous Mystery Worship reports) is the addition of wide screen
monitors carrying the broadcast, attached to every other pillar
on each side of the sanctuary. I found these extremely distracting.
In fact, I could not follow the first hymn – even though
I knew it – because I couldn't help but watch close-ups
of the organist playing. There were also glaring spotlights, one of which was shining in my eyes every time I looked
up at the altar or preacher. I felt as if I were on a movie
set. Among other distractions, a gentleman in front of me, who
looked like a professional wrestler, extended his arms, then
brought them together and made an explosive noise with his mouth.
He did this several times during the hymn, and I finally realized
that he was clapping imaginary cymbals.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
I would say it was formal and traditional – no hallelujahs
or hand-clapping – but streamlined, fast-moving and well-paced.
The excellent music dominated the service, which was a most pleasant
innovation. I had heard that under the former head organist,
parishioners weren't exactly able to leave church humming the
tunes. However, the music that day (William Byrd's Mass
for Five Voices and choir settings by Edward Bairstow and
Richard Dering) was exquisite and quite accessible. The
organ thundered now and then, but for the most part the music
was quietly traditional, except the final hymn from the Lift
Every Voice book was a bit more popular-evangelical. I
also liked the fact that the sharing of the peace was not overdone,
but just a quick handshake with the immediate neighbors, and
that there was no lengthy recitation of names in the prayer
request (another welcome departure from past practice).
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 I felt that the preacher rambled a bit and touched
on ideas that could have been stated more clearly. He did not
expand upon some of his points as much as I might have liked.
The congregation must have liked the sermon very much, though,
as they applauded at the end. I don't know whether this
is the custom at Trinity, but it seemed unusual to me.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
His text was the Gospel reading for the day, Matthew 22:1-14
(the parable of the wedding guest without a wedding garment).
These are very troubled times. The world is in a terrible state
due to poverty, greed and violence. (He mentioned specific political
issues to illustrate what he meant, but didn't develop them.)
Only faith can get us through it all. But we need to be prepared
by being clothed in love.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The music was absolutely gorgeous. The organ was majestic-sounding
and the choir was excellent. During the communion, when the
choir sang A Child's Prayer by James MacMillan, it
was indeed like being in heaven. The church's pipe organ was
damaged beyond repair in the aftermath of 9/11 and has been
replaced with a custom-designed digital electronic organ. It
has apparently taken some time to voice the instrument just
right, but the result (I am told) is that even the most discerning
professional ear is hard put to tell the difference between
this instrument and the finest pipe organ.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The glaring light in my eyes and the distracting monitor really
ruined this experience for me. I was extremely uncomfortable
because of the light and very distracted by the monitors. Although
Trinity is large as Episcopal churches go, it is certainly not
a megachurch, and I don't know why it's necessary to see close-ups
of the choir's faces. The congregation also appeared on the
monitors at random moments throughout the service and all through
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Most everyone got up during the postlude, so I discreetly took
a couple of pictures and then got in line and shook hands with
the celebrant/preacher, who was very warm and caring. But then
I stood looking lost and no one came up to me. This might be
in part due to the many tourists who barged in the door to take
pictures as soon as the mass ended. After five minutes, I asked
an usher if there was a coffee hour for those who had attended
the service, and I was given directions to get there. I understand
that this has always been the case at Trinity – they're
keen to welcome visitors at the beginning of the service, but
after-service refreshments are very much intended for the regular
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
The coffee hour was in another building, connected to the main
church by a little bridge that went over the street. It seems,
from passing comments I heard, there was a reception being given,
possibly in the usual coffee room – because this was a
bit far. Neither the coffee nor the reception were mentioned
in the announcements. There were regular and decaf coffee and
a basket with various teas. There was also some fruit –
apples, grapes, orange and melon slices – as well as scones,
carrot and nut cakes, little cheese crackers ("goldfish"), rolls
and butter. Previous Mystery Worship reports have mentioned
the lavish spread that Trinity puts out, and today's fare did
not disappoint. But everything was served on paper plates and
cups. I don't know if the coffee was fairly traded and wasn't
sure who to ask. People seemed to be in little groups with their
friends sitting at tables. I stood for a while, then sat, but
no one approached me. None of the priests or choir were there,
so they might have all been at that reception.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 Trinity has changed over the years, both for the better
and for the worse, but I hope they quickly realize what a big
mistake those monitors are. I would like this church much more
if it didn't have the glaring lights and monitors. It's very
nice that they have a simulcast for those who want to worship
through the internet, but it felt alternately like surveillance
or being at a concert. I wouldn't like to become a member of
a church in which I feel I am being filmed whenever I receive
communion or even walk through the door. I may go back sometime,
sit far from the monitors and lights, and keep my eyes closed
most of the time.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
In some ways, yes, with the music and the communion. I didn't
plan on going to Trinity but would have been late for the church
I had wanted to attend. But all in all I was glad I went.
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
I think I'll remember the big guy with the imaginary cymbals,
the glaring light, the monitors, and that lovely communion.
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