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Lutheran, New York City, USA
Lutheran, New York City, New York.
Church in America.
Christ Lutheran met for many years in its own quite beautiful
church building on East 19th Street. Sadly, the cost of maintaining
the building became too much and it was sold. They now meet
in the chapel of Seafarers
and International House, a Lutheran mission for seafarers
and sojourners, on East 15th Street just off Union Square. The
chapel is very small and plain, but warm and bright and clean.
The walls are white with wooden panels, and there are 14 rows
(seven on each side) of polished wooden pews. A small pipe organ
sits to the rear right, with a crucifix on the rear left, which
is also the entrance. Between them, on the back wall, is a large
stained glass panel. The altar area looks rather bare. The other
parts of Seafarers and International House are also warm and
homey, with lovely framed paintings and drawings of ships and
sea scenes. A Korean Presbyterian church also holds services
in the chapel.
It is a Reconciling
in Christ congregation, welcoming people of all ages, ethnic
and educational backgrounds, sexual orientations and economic
conditions. The church supports the food pantry of a nearby
Lutheran church and lists a number of ministries under the "Friends"
section of its website.
Union Square is rich in history. Ever since the Civil War days,
the Square has been the site of political demonstrations and
most notably labor union rallies. By the late 1970s the area
had pretty much fallen to seed, but thanks to a major revitalization
effort Union Square today is probably the most accessible and
popular neighborhood in New York. Several major subway lines
intersect here, and nearby can be found New York University,
the New School, bookshops, restaurants, and cafes galore. Greenwich
Village, Chelsea and Gramercy Park are all within a short walking
distance. Union Square is still very much a gathering place;
it is almost always full and is often the site of anti-war protests
and rallies. The Square hosts perhaps the biggest and best greemarket
in all of New York City! A huge holiday market is held from
late November until Christmas Eve. At the northeast corner of
the Square sits Tammany Hall, the last of several buildings
that housed the Democratic Party machine that controlled New
York City politics all throughout the 19th and well into the
20th century. The New York Film Academy now occupies the building.
The celebrant and preacher was the pastor, the Revd Brooke L.
Swertfager. The organist was Micah Young, and guest musician
Roger Lent played the trumpet.
The date & time:
Reformation Sunday, October 25, 2008, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion – the Festival of the Reformation.
How full was the building?
About two-thirds full. The small congregation ranged in ages
from about 7 to over 70. Dress was everything from very casual
to rather formal Sunday best.
Did anyone welcome you
Not at the beginning. The pastor was welcoming people at the
door, but seemed to be involved in taking care of a problem
at the moment I came in. The bulletins were in plain sight;
I took one and sat down. People around me smiled and nodded.
At length the pastor did notice me, and smiled and seemed to
look to make sure I was settled in OK.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. It was a wooden pew without cushioning, but well-molded
for comfortable sitting. There weren't any kneelers at all.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
People were coming in a bit late, but it was fairly quiet with
a bit of bustling about and some talking. The guest trumpeter
played a solo which saved me from embarrassment! Just
as the prelude began, I remembered that I had forgotten to turn
off my new cell phone. I turned it off, but then realized that
I wasn't wearing a watch and there would be no other way to
time the sermon. So I had to turn the cell phone back on. It
made a lot of noise restarting, but this was masked by the wonderful
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the
communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all."
What books did the congregation use during the
Lutheran Book of Worship and the Holy Bible, New
Revised Standard Version.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and trumpet.
Did anything distract you?
It was warm and stuffy in the room. The pastor went over to
a thermostat and turned on the air, but then someone who just
appeared out of nowhere and didn't seem to be part of the congregation
came in and turned it off. Since the room was small and windowless,
there was a closed-in feeling. I was glad it wasn't completely
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Traditional, simple. It was a chorale service for Reformation
Sunday, which, following Luther's tradition, replaced parts
of the liturgy with appropriate hymns. This was most interesting,
especially when the Nicene Creed was sung to a hymn by Luther,
"We all believe in one True God."
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 Down-to-earth, intellectual but accessible, personal, inspirational, witty. Brief and to the point.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The sermon was on the gospel reading, John 8:31-36 (the truth
shall make you free). Sometimes what we believe to be true turns
out not to be the truth. We should be able to accept reforms
of our sometimes mistaken "truths" in order to be free to share
the love of God and to grow in Christ.
Which part of the service was like being in
The organ and trumpet combination was lovely, as was the hymn
singing. Almost all the hymns were by Martin Luther, and some,
such as "A mighty fortress", used Luther's original rhythm instead
of the familiar and usual isometric rhythmic setting.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The lack of air was quite difficult for me. Although I would
have liked to listen to a longer sermon, I might not have been
able to make it through because I was starting to wilt. Also,
it would be nice if the church's website could include information
on the history of the church. And it could state more clearly
that the services are now being held in the Seafarers Chapel.
That information, it seems, can only be found buried on an inner
page of the website.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
The pastor invited everyone to coffee hour. I shook her hand,
and she was very welcoming. In addition to asking me about myself,
she gave me a $5 gift card to Starbucks, which all newcomers
receive. It was in a very pretty envelope which read, "Compliments
of Christ Lutheran Church." However, even though she mentioned
twice that coffee would be served on the second floor, I still
managed to get lost, so I didn't need to pretend. A congregation
member immediately noticed and led me to the elevator. At the
coffee hour, people came up to me right away and introduced
themselves. Everyone was very friendly.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
There was coffee in plastic cups, plus various teas, cookies,
bagels, cream cheese, butter, a type of cake-bread, and some
interesting Japanese cookies.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 I would definitely visit this church again, but for
a regular church I must admit I would like something a bit bigger,
with windows and more atmosphere, kneelers, a choir, and longer
services. I feel sad when I think of the church at 19th Street,
which I was told is being gutted and made into a residential
pictures, it was quite a lovely church.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, and particularly happy to be at a Lutheran church on Reformation
Sunday, and that it was a Reconciling in Christ church and used
the chorale service.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The conversations at coffee hour, the hymns, and the story of
the lost church.
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