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3233: Holy Trinity Cathedral, Manchester, New Hampshire, USA
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Manchester, NH (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Vagrant Congregant.
The church: Holy Trinity Cathedral, Manchester, New Hampshire, USA.
Denomination: Polish National Catholic Church, Eastern Diocese. The Polish National Catholic Church was founded in 1897 by Franciszek Hodur, a Polish immigrant to the United States who was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1893, but who subsequently led a group who were disillusioned by the fact that the Roman Catholic Church in the United States at the time had no Polish bishops, few Polish priests, and did not permit Polish to be taught in its schools. And so they chose to associate themselves instead with the Union of Utrecht. (Excommunicated by Rome, Father Hodur is said to have burned the excommunication document and thrown the ashes into a stream.) Disagreement over certain matters, including the ordination of women, led to the Polish National Catholic Church being expelled from the Union of Utrecht in 2003. Today they are in a state of "limited inter-communion" with the Vatican. This Wikipedia entry gives a concise account of their history, liturgical practices, and ecumenical relations with other churches.
The building: The church was built in 1915 and renovated in 2016. The exterior is a curious mix of stucco, neoclassical arches, and Eastern domes.
The church: They have a Moms in Prayer group, a seniors group, Sunday school for the children, and call their choir the Frederick Chopin Choir. One mass is celebrated each Sunday in English, and they have morning prayer and the mass on weekdays.
The neighborhood: Manchester, in the southernmost part of New Hampshire, is the state's largest city. It is consistently ranked among the most livable of American cities. Polish immigrants were attracted to Manchester because of the cotton mills as well as the foundry. In the mid 19th century, Manchester was home to the largest cotton mill in the world. Today, one of Manchester's principal industries in Segway, Inc., maker of the self-balancing two-wheeled electric scooter by that name. The church sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood, within walking distance of St Joseph's Roman Catholic Cathedral.
The cast: The Rt Revd Paul Sobiechowski, Bishop of the Eastern Diocese.
The date & time: Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 20, 2017, 9.00am. [Editor's note: This report was filed September 20, 2017.]

What was the name of the service?
Holy Mass, Year A.

How full was the building?
There were 37 people in attendance. The church did not feel empty, however.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I entered late, so I managed to enter quietly after the asperges finished.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I entered late. However, the congregation throughout the mass were reverently quiet. I suspect that was the pre-mass atmosphere.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A mass booklet and the Polish National Catholic Church Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?
The organ was played and there was a choir in a choir loft – where God intended.

Did anything distract you?
I prefer a few hymns with one or two verses. However, the PNCC mass has a lot of hymns. In addition to the standard mass hymns, there was a "Hymn to the Holy Spirit" before the sermon. Then, after the communion hymn there was a post-communion hymn. In all we sang 13 times. Far more than I'm used to!

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Manchester, NH (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was formal. There are different canon options in the PNCC missal and the traditional canon was used. Interestingly, the celebrant followed traditional rubrics like holding the paten upright in the prayer after the Lord's Prayer.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
7 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The bishop's preaching style was very informal and comfortable.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The homily centered around being a welcoming people and making sure we are inviting.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The church is absolutely beautiful. It has been completely re-done inside with gorgeous stenciling.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
It was a lot of singing for me. A lot.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After mass, the congregation presented a scholarship to one of their altar servers to go to the University of New Hampshire. They were clearly very proud. I ran out of the pew to take photos of the church. A parishioner joked with me, "We charge by the photo!" and was very friendly. A lady invited me to the choir loft to get better photos! They are rightly proud of their space. The bishop and his wife greeted me. PNCC clergy can marry and in fact are encouraged to do so.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no after-service reception. However, the bishop shared that he had to go to a youth gathering that afternoon.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – The church is beautiful, the people were friendly, and the bishop was gracious. After mass he was offering baseball tickets to people so they could attend a game he couldn't.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, definitely.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
All the singing.
 
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