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|2152: St John's,
Huntington, New York, USA
Worshipper: Acton Bell.
John's, Huntington, New York, USA.
Episcopal Church, Diocese
of Long Island.
The congregation was founded in 1745 and the current building
dates from 1906. It is Gothic Revival with Arts and Crafts movement
touches. The interior is chock-a-block with stained glass, some
of which, I later learned, is Tiffany.
Their many ministries and activities are listed on their website,
which also describes the congregation as "a welcoming and
nurturing community whose mission is to know Christ and to make
him known." Morning or evening prayer is said on alternating
weekdays, with the eucharist celebrated at noon on Thursdays.
Each Sunday there are three services: Rite 1, family service,
and Rite 2 choral eucharist.
Even with a population approaching 200,000, Huntington seems
the quintessential all-American small town. One of the older
communities on Long Island's well-to-do North Shore, Huntington
began as a whaling community 350 years ago, and it retains a
sort of "Ye Olde" feel without being too twee. It also seems
to be where the surrounding area goes to "go out," and
there are many restaurants and a thriving and active nightlife.
The church is right on Main Street an honest-to-goodness
old-fashioned Main Street with local department store, shops
of all kinds, an enormous independent book store, and dozens
The Revd Allen Shin, rector, was the officiant. There were two
deacons, I think, but they weren't listed in the service bulletin.
The date & time:
Third Sunday in Lent, March 27, 2011, 10.45am.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist Penitential Order Rite I.
How full was the building?
About 40 people.
Did anyone welcome you
At first, no. And I thought that boded ill, but I couldn't have
been more wrong. I think we just arrived a bit too early. I
looked around for service bulletins, which I found easily (along
with an unexpected surprise read on!), and we grabbed
a pew. Later, an usher came over and introduced himself and
asked if we needed anything. At the peace, Father Shin asked
that the members stand and greet those who were seated. As the
only two left seated, we were pretty much welcomed by everyone.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was a standard wooden one with kneeler, topped with
a slightly tatty velvet cushion. The pews were very close together,
so despite being rather short, I found it difficult to kneel
without sitting perched on the edge of the pew.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Some people were heading out through the nave from the earlier
service. About five minutes before the start, Father Shin walked
through and greeted everyone. He introduced himself to us, inquired
where we were from, and was very welcoming.
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
"Bless the Lord, who forgiveth all our sins."
What books did the congregation use during the
Prayer Book 1979, Hymnal 1982, and a service bulletin
with the day's collect, psalm, and readings on an insert.
What musical instruments were played?
A particularly nice-sounding pipe organ.
Did anything distract
There were quite a few latecomers, especially one noisy person
who seemed to bang into a pew during the prayers for the people.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Slightly starched upper lip perhaps? It was Rite I, but hardly
stuffy. There were bells but no smells, reverencing without
being showy. I guess the best way to describe it is formal yet
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 What a great speaker the rector is! He must have been
speaking from notes, but he was so conversational that I wasn't
entirely certain. The sermon was scholarly without being esoteric
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
His text was on the day's gospel reading, the story of the Samaritan
woman at the well. I was anticipating groaning if there was
a comparison between the much-divorced Elizabeth Taylor, who
died several days earlier, and the much-divorced Samaritan woman.
This sermon had, thankfully, none of that. The rector began
by asking who the Samaritan woman was, and pointed to the ways
in which she had been "othered" or marginalized by her society.
Yet, despite or maybe because of her outsider status, she received
the grace to become an evangelizer herself. This is (he said)
the only place in the gospels where Jesus specifically identifies
himself as the Messiah, and he did so to this lowly outsider.
Which part of the service was like being in
I hadn't expected such a smart, well-reasoned, inclusive, woman-friendly
sermon. I was totally blown away.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Latecomers. What happened to sitting quietly in the back if
you've arrived late?
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No chance to look lost. In a flash we were stopped by several
very nice folks who asked our names, our church background,
and where we were from. We were given a gift bag that included
a four-color, glossy, thirty-plus page brochure about the church
and the area, a mug with a picture of the church on it, and
a list of parish contacts. We were also asked to fill out a
form with our contact information. This was all friendly and
conversational and I never had the feeling I was getting the
hard sell. Those we were talking to seemed genuinely to want
to know who we were. Best of all everyone we spoke to asked
us to come back. Clearly these folks could be teaching welcoming
classes to other churches.
How would you describe the after-service
There wasn't an after service coffee, but there had been a breakfast
at the earlier service. We were told that there were plenty
of muffins left over and hot coffee, and we were urged to go
back and grab some before we left.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 When can I move? I can without reservation say if
I lived in Huntington this would be my church. They did so much
right, it threw my own parish's failings into high relief.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
The great sermon and the warm welcome. Later in the week I received
a letter from the rector thanking me for visiting, telling me
how much he enjoyed meeting me, and asking me to return. Very
on the ball! Oh, and now for the the unexpected surprise. While
I was looking for a service bulletin at the beginning, I grabbed
something that I thought was a bulletin, but put in my pocket
to look at later. On the train on my way home I pulled it out,
and it was a 50-page pamphlet of Lenten meditations put together
by Father Shin for each day in Lent. I'm so glad I picked it
up. What a fantastic Lenten gift!
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