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2827: Church of the Advent, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Church of the Advent, Boston, MA
Mystery Worshipper: AC Priest.
The church: Church of the Advent, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Denomination: The Episcopal Church, Diocese of Massachusetts.
The building: It is an older brick building in the early English Gothic style, begun in 1875 and substantially completed by 1888. The multi-level roof line allows for various chapels within – there are three, I believe. The interior is dark, subdued, with accented lighting. While most of the building is brick wall, there are some stained glass windows and an ornate sanctuary with a very prominent reredos.
The church: They sponsor Theology On Tap at a local tavern, (quoting from their website) "a series of talks in a relaxed setting for young adults in their twenties and thirties (or for anyone that feels that age) ... around some aspect of theology as it pertains to literature, society, philosophy, ethics, pop culture, music, art and many other topics." Their Tuesday night supper program, where a meal is served to anyone needing same, has been in place for over 30 years. Every Thursday and Friday morning they invite families with small children to come play and socialize in the downstairs area. Their worship style is solidly Anglo-Catholic, and as such they attract worshippers (again quoting from their website) "from a considerable distance in spite of the fact that a nearby church would be more convenient." This was certainly corroborated by the number of cars I saw arriving. Each Sunday they have morning prayer as well as sung masses using both Rite I and Rite II. On weekdays the mass is celebrated and morning prayer is recited each day. Evening prayer is regularly publicly recited Monday through Friday, in addition to periodic choral evensong on Sunday nights.
The neighborhood: This is a very affluent area between the Charles River and Beacon Hill in central Boston, just two blocks from Boston Common.
The cast: The order of service did not identify the presider, but I learned later that he was the Revd Allan Bevier Warren III, rector. The preacher was identified as "Deacon Noyes", but it was clearly not the Revd Deacon Daphne B. Noyes listed on their website, as she is a woman and the preacher was not only a gentleman but sported a full beard! I'd say there must have been a last minute substitution, but this was not elaborated on.
The date & time: Third Sunday in Lent, March 8, 2015, 11.15am.
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.

What was the name of the service?
Solemn Mass and the Great Litany in Procession.

How full was the building?
About a third full in a big nave.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
There were two young men acting as greeters (and later sidespersons) who handed me an order of service but did not engage in small talk. In fact, at no time before, during or after the service (including the exchange of peace) did anyone once utter the word "welcome" let alone engage me in conversation.

Was your pew comfortable?
Pews are pews. The kneeler did have padding, though.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Those present were quiet for the most part, listening to the music. The majority of people entered en masse literally seconds before the service began. There must have been some pre-service "Hello, how have you been?" among the regulars who knew enough to go down to the social area upon arriving.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
(V) O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth: (R) Have mercy upon us.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Hymnal 1982 and a printed order of service taken from the Prayer Book 1979.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ, opus 940 of the venerable Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company dating from 1936. It is one of only three organs in the United States that the legendary Albert Schweitzer chose to play on during his tour of the country in 1949.

Did anything distract you?
There was considerably more coming and going during the service than one normally sees, especially in an Anglo-Catholic setting. The upside to that was that I myself didn't feel at all uncomfortable leaving during the offertory to use the washroom.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A very formal service, as you'd expect in an Anglo-Catholic setting. I was surprised that the service included the great litany, which is more commonly seen only at the beginning of Lent.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
17 minutes – rather un-Anglican, I thought.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – The preacher spoke clearly but I found his sermon hard to follow. And while a literary reference now and then is fine, to refer to three different books and actually to read from them is a bit over the top.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He said that the mass has three distinct movements (I was intrigued, as Anglicans usually speak only of two: the Word and the Sacrament). But then he began to talk about "muscle memory" and how we do things automatically. He suggested we sometimes approach worship like this. It didn't seem that he ever got around to talking about the three movements of the mass – I certainly didn't hear him mention the Sacrament - and so I'm afraid I was for the main rather confused at the end.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music was very good. The choir was solid and sang extremely well. This for me is a key to a great service.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
While the music was indeed great, the mass setting seemed especially long – I believe the Sanctus alone lasted almost eight minutes! That, combined with the inclusion of the great litany, made for a service that lasted almost two hours. That is more than most want on a regular Sunday morning. I mean, we're getting into High Holy Day territory. Also, there appears to be no sound system in this church – a potential problem for those with hearing impairments.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Smiles were all I got. Again, no one spoke to me let alone greeted me with a "Welcome."

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The coffee time was nice – for the regulars, that is, who seemed far more interested in each other and what was going on than in chatting to a stranger.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – My tastes run to Anglo-Catholic, so if I lived in the area I would give it a few more tries. If the regulars didn't eventually warm up to me, however, I'd seriously consider not staying.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I'm always glad to take part in the mass, even with "interesting" bits thrown in.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
How long a service it was.
 
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