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3039: St Barnabas, Irvington, New York, USA
St Barnabas, Irvington, NY (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: William Dewy.
The church: St Barnabas, Irvington, New York, USA.
Denomination: The Episcopal Church, Diocese of New York.
The building: The granite and limestone edifice with a slate roof was built in the 1850s in the Gothic Revival style. It has been enlarged several times through the years. There are two towers: a central 55 foot square tower and smaller round tower on the southeast corner. There is a Lady chapel next to the church. The nave is long, narrow, and a bit dark. The high altar is against the wall in the east end, and a free standing altar is in the midst of the crossing. Despite what appears to be a tabernacle and several candles, the high altar seems to be unused. An announcement in the bulletin stated that there is a memorial candle in the chapel, but I couldn’t tell whether it indicated that the Sacrament was present or it was simply Protestant decoration.
The church: The church prides itself on being inclusive. There are education programs for children and adults; picnics, pancake suppers and talent shows; a food pantry; and other social and spiritual activities. Special mention goes to Rhythms of Grace, a monthly program (quoting from their website) "directed towards the spiritual needs of families with children on the autism spectrum." There is an early said Rite I service each Sunday (except in the summer months) as well as a later sung Rite II service.
The neighborhood: Irvington, also known as Irvington-on-Hudson, is an affluent New York City suburb in Westchester County on the west bank of the Hudson River. It is named in honor of the American author Washington Irving, who lived in the house called Sunnyside, now a museum. Served by a stop on the Metro North Commuter Railroad (formerly the New York Central), Irvington is primarily a bedroom community within an easy commute of New York. Irvington's 2005 mayoral election caused a brief news stir when one of the two candidates was found to have won by a single ballot; however, a recount indicated that the rival candidate had won, also by a single ballot. The election was ultimately decided by the drawing of lots. St Barnabas is just down the street from Washington Irving’s home, Sunnyside, and very near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where rest the earthly remains not only of Irving but of many other notables such as philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, pioneer labor union leader Samuel Gompers, real estate mogul Harry Helmsley, and automobile industry executive Walter Chrysler.
The cast: The rector, the Revd Lenore K. Smith ("Mother Nora"), was celebrant and preacher. Barbara Wright served as acolyte and reader.
The date & time: Sunday, June 26, 2016, 9.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist Rite II.

How full was the building?
Thirty-eight people were present.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We arrived a little early; one person greeted me quietly in the church before the service began. Mrs Dewy, who had gone into the lounge before the service, reported that the people were most welcoming and friendly. After the dismissal, another parishioner greeted us warmly and invited us to the coffee hour in the parish hall.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was quite comfortable, but the hassock kneeler was not. It was rather too big and unwieldy to be quite convenient or comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very quiet and reverent. One could hear a couple of ladies whispering a bit in a nearby pew, but it was far from disturbing.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
The opening words were “O Worship the King,” the first line of the processional hymn. The first spoken words were "Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the Hymnal 1982 were used. There was also a service leaflet with the order of worship and the lessons. The parish gets very high marks for not wasting resources by reproducing a lot of material that is in the Prayer Book or Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?
A pipe organ, very well played by Donald G. Butt.

Did anything distract you?
There were some sounds coming from the back of the nave or from the adjoining hall, not unlike the slamming of a screen door and someone setting up or moving tables. The children who were present at the service were generally well behaved, though one seemed a little fussy toward the end of communion.

St Barnabas, Irvington, NY (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Cheerfully reverent. The worship was formal but not stiff. The reader was impeccable.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
11 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – I rate Mother Nora 2 for content and 8 for delivery. She started with an apology to her homiletics professor, who had advised: “Nobody wants to hear a precious little story about you.” She went on to tell precious stories about herself and her campaign for bishop of Central New York.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The core of the message seemed to be “We need more women diocesan bishops.” The flock was admonished to “move forward,” which sounded a bit like “abandon tradition.” When she got around to talking about Jesus, she brought up themes of calling, following, discipleship, rejection, and perseverance. The congregants were warned against stalling or balking at Jesus’ call. She said that it’s hard to follow Jesus when we don’t feel the need, such as when things are going all right.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The congregational singing of the hymns and service music. They were really into it!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The self-promoting sermon.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Members of congregation invited us to coffee and cake. The rector introduced herself and chatted.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
A lot was available: regular and decaffeinated coffee, lemonade and iced tea – all set out on a long table with an assortment of coffee cake and left-over cake from a graduation party. Why, I wondered, would you tell a visitor that the bounty on the refreshment table was left over from the previous day?

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I don't live in Irvington (would that I could!), but if I did I would be a regular worshipper here. I'd want more spiritual substance to the sermons, though.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
“Nobody wants to hear a precious little story about you.”
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