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Peter's, New York City
The Kid from Brooklyn.
The church: St Peter's,
New York City.
Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America, Metropolitan
New York Synod.
The building: The work of the architectural firm of Emery Roth & Sons,
whose buildings include contemporary skycrapers in New York
and elsewhere. It's impossible to describe this church using
traditional terms. To me it somewhat resembles a granite pyramid
that was split in half, with the gap in the middle filled
in with glass. The exterior was intended to inspire confidence
in the continuing role of Christianity in the city's future.
The sanctuary was designed to allow for a great variety of
expressions of worship, and is bright and cheerful, with delightfully
colored cushions on the pews.
The church: Plenty on offer. St Peter's ministers to a population as diverse
as New York itself. Each Sunday they offer two masses in English,
another in Spanish, and jazz vespers in the evening. There
are also discussion groups and a host of other activities.
The neighborhood: The church is part of a cluster of buildings comprising what
is typically called the Citicorp Center (also the work of
Emery Roth & Sons), with the bank's towering headquarters
looming high above it. There are plenty of skyscrapers in
the area, but somehow St Peter's does not seem dwarfed by
The cast: The Revd Kaji R. Spellman, associate pastor, preaching and presiding.
Mr Roosevelt Andre Credit, music leader. Music from the Aaron
The date & time: March 27, 2011 at 5.00pm.
What was the
name of the service?
Jazz Vespers with Rites for Healing.
How full was
About two-thirds full. Probably about 40 people present in all.
welcome you personally?
No, but I arrived very early, so maybe the greeters came on duty later.
Was your pew
Yes, a modern wooden pew with a colorful, comfortable cushion.
How would you
describe the pre-service
For a while the jazz trio warmed up, but other than that it
was fairly quiet, except for one man in the back who yakked
loudly for at least half an hour until the service started.
What were the
exact opening words of the
"Welcome." The first words of the actual service were: "Jesus
Christ is the light of the world."
What books did
the congregation use during the
Specially-printed booklet. There were no hymnals or Bibles
in the pews.
instruments were played?
Piano, bass and drums, all very skillfully played.
That man in the back who spoiled the pre-service atmosphere by talking
loudly. Also, for a brief period the sun shone right through the large
window above the altar, making it difficult to see.
Was the worship
stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Upbeat. There was some clapping along
with the hymns, which were led by
a very skillful cantor who really got the crowd up and moving. Essentially the service consisted of several
instrumental pieces played by the jazz trio, three hymns, some prayers,
a scripture reading and a brief sermon. Before the service candles were
distributed, and once things got started people were invited to light
theirs from the main candle. Later people were asked to come forward
and receive a healing on behalf of themselves or another, with both the
minister and a seminarian performing the laying on of hands and
anointing with oil.
long was the sermon?
On a scale of
1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Pastor Spellman was delightfully informal and had
us laughing at several points.
This is the first time I ever wished a sermon were longer!
In a nutshell,
what was the sermon
A commentary on the reading, Romans 5:1-11, which is on justification
by faith and on Christ's sacrifice for us while we were still
sinners. Through Christ there is always hope, no matter what
may come our way. Pastor Spellman told an hysterically funny
story of a YouTube video she had just watched in which the
narrator supposedly helped people achieve their material goals
by making affirmations and tapping themselves on the head.
Affirmations may be a positive thing, but they are not backed
by Christ's power.
Which part of
the service was like being in
The jazz! I have never encountered this type of music in a church
service before, but it was very uplifting, especially as the
And which part
was like being in... er... the other place?
There was nothing about the church itself that was "hellish" in any
form, although I found myself very emotional during the healing rite.
We were offered the opportunity to have prayers said for a loved one,
and I thought of my beloved aunt, who is gravely ill and now has
when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing! Nobody approached me. But when I sat down with some of the
people from the church afterwards they were very friendly.
How would you
describe the after-service
The coffee was decent, but St Peter's has much more than a "coffee
hour": they offer supper. This night it was roast pork, quinoa and
veggies. Quite good.
How would you
feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
9 – Before deciding upon this I'd like to attend a few of their
Did the service
make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Mr Roosevelt Andre Credit's enthusiastic direction of the
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