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2851: Trinity Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Trinity Cathedral, Phoenix, AZ (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Scholastica, accompanied by Amanda B. Reckondwythe.
The church: Trinity Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
Denomination: The Episcopal Church, Diocese of Arizona.
The building: An attractive light brown stone building in the familiar Southwestern style that is prominent throughout the Phoenix area. The grounds are unremarkable except for the courtyard, which includes a labyrinth replicating the one at Chartres Cathedral plus an outdoor pulpit and several pieces of sculpture. Inside, one's attention is immediately drawn to the great window, which their website describes as "the Trinity ... represented by overlapping white wings ... and ... a symbolic representation of the living earth, woven together from the primal elements." The interior was almost completely destroyed by fire in October 2002 but, thanks to a generous outpouring of community support (and well-written fire insurance), has been restored. The long, narrow nave features white walls, a red tile floor, and dark wood pews and ceiling. A small square altar sits at the front of the sanctuary, to the side of which are the organ console and a grand piano (a Bösendorfer!). Choir seating is against the east wall.
The church: The cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Arizona. On Sundays they offer communion services in English and Spanish, Bible study, Sunday school, and an evening service of compline. During the week they offer a variety of social programs, including yoga and adult education classes. The congregation appear to be particularly interested in the arts as well as gardening: the atrium connecting the cathedral with offices and social rooms is lined with artworks for sale, and on the day of our visit there was a gardening and spirituality fair taking place out in the courtyard.
The neighborhood: The cathedral is located on Roosevelt Street at First Avenue in Phoenix's historic district. Phoenix is not an old city by any stretch of the imagination, but the area features fine old substantial stone houses, carefully restored, with huge windows to let in as much cool air as possible during Phoenix's torrid summers (what must they have been like without air conditioning?). Many of these houses have been converted into professional offices.
The cast: The Very Revd Troy Mendez, dean, was the preacher. The celebrant was the Revd Whitney Kirby. Two unidentified lay people read the first and second lessons. The cathedralís choir and organist were on vacation, but baritone Keith Cook sang a solo at the offertory ("Easter", from Ralph Vaughan Williams' Five Mystical Songs). The guest organist was Peter Mahigian. Other important members of the congregation on this occasion were three babies being presented for baptism, accompanied by their families and friends.
The date & time: Second Sunday of Easter (Low Sunday), April 12, 2015, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist with Baptism.

How full was the building?
Moderately full. The front rows were packed to capacity with families and friends of the baptismal candidates.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A rather glum individual handed over a sheaf of papers and managed to get out a "Good morning."

Was your pew comfortable?
Fairly comfortable: on the firm side but supportive.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Fairly lively. The clergy rehearsed the three baptismal parties. Worshippers were arriving and greeting each other in a friendly manner. Some people stopped at our pew to say hello as they took their places.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A service sheet specific to the day in question, including readings. There were also a notice sheet and a promotional flyer for the gardening and spirituality fair. The Hymnal 1982 was used for hymns and service music, and we followed the rite of baptism along from the Prayer Book 1979.

What musical instruments were played?
The organ, a four manual opus of the Schantz Organ Company of Orville, Ohio. The pipes are beautifully exposed on either side of the sanctuary, and a trompette en chamade proudly juts out from the gallery wall ("A very well behaved trompette en chamade," Miss Amanda pronounced it). We thought that the guest organist, Peter Mahigian, got off to a somewhat shaky start with his prelude (JS Bach's Liebster Jesu, BWV 633), but he recovered nicely and supported the congregational singing with solid precision. The Bösendorfer, in perfect tune, lent ample support to baritone Keith Cook's offertory solo.

Trinity Cathedral, Phoenix, AZ (Window)

Did anything distract you?
There weren't any major distractions. It is always a pleasant distraction to hear a trompette en chamade – especially a well behaved one as opposed to the tuned 18-wheeler horns that a poorly maintained trompette can sound like.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fairly dignified but not stiff. The cathedral is basically low church – eucharistic vestments but no bells, smells or chanting. We sang the psalm to an Anglican Chant setting, and the service music was basic stuff (William Mathias' Sanctus, Gerald Near's fraction anthem). The communion hymn was "Let all mortal flesh keep silence" to the tune of Picardy, a favorite of mine as well as of Miss Amanda. The baptismal font is located at the rear of the cathedral, and all three parties processed back to it at the proper moment, with the rest of us turning around in our pews to witness the sacred event.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
11 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Dean Mendez was friendly, reaching out to the congregation and helping them to follow by repetition of key phrases such as "Thomas was not there." He had notes in front of him but tried hard to give the impression he was not reading from them.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The dean spoke on the gospel of the day (John 20:19-31 – the risen Jesus appears to the disciples and then to Thomas). Imagine yourself (he said) in a locked room, with Jesus suddenly there. But Thomas was not there. When the others told Thomas that they had seen Jesus, he didn't believe it. To believe, he had to see and touch Jesus himself. Jesus returned so that Thomas could indeed see him. Jesus hadn't forgotten Thomas, and he will not forget us either. He wants us to burst out of the locked room of our memories and fears and share the news of him with everyone. One sign of this is baptism, in which God is represented by the use of pure life-giving water.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The well crafted and well delivered sermon, and the final organ voluntary with trompette en chamade blaring away (well behaved, though).

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nothing seriously grated, but it was a pity the choir were on vacation. They have an excellent reputation and we were so looking forward to hearing them. And couldn't the greeter have at least managed a smile with his muttered "Good morning"?

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Two congregation regulars asked us where we were from and made other small talk. They invited us for coffee before the organist was more than a few bars into his concluding voluntary, so there was no time at all for looking lost.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Hot, good quality, and accompanied by a splendid selection of cake slices and tray bakes of excellent quality made by a member of the congregation. However, apart from the new friends who invited us, no one there made much effort to talk to us. We gave ourselves a tour of the cathedral's upper rooms – the choir room, a lovely Edwardian parlor, and a rogue's gallery of portraits of the present bishop, former bishops (including a plaster bust of one of them) and former clergy.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – Too far from home for me – I'm visiting from abroad – and not really Miss Amanda's neighborhood either, but we'd both be happy to worship here should we pass this way again.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. It was heartening to witness the baptism of new Christians and to see how welcome their families were made to feel.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The pleasure of two Shipmates from different continents being able to worship together.
 
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