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Trinity, New York City
Worshipper: Acton Bell.
New York City.
of New York.
A really interesting synthesis of Byzantine and Romanesque elements.
Built in 1910, it is essentially a long riff on the Hagia Sofia
in miniature with the decidedly (then) modern twist of Guastavino
structural tiles. The façade features Romanesque arches
with statues of St John and St Peter. The interior, like the
Hagia Sofia, is dominated by mosaics and the dome. Here, the
dome is laid out in a herringbone pattern of tan, glazed structural
tiles in the style that came to dominate Beaux Arts architecture
in New York City. Guastavino tiles can be found in structures
as diverse as the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal, the
understory of the 59th Street Bridge, and St Paul's Chapel at
Columbia University, but nowhere else are the tiles used as
the primary decorative focus as they are here. It is really
quite extraordinary, both modern and hinting at the past.
They provide a homeless shelter and sponsor a Narcotics Anonymous
chapter, as well as a Christian meditation center. They also
provide extensive religious education classes for both adults
and children. They sponsor Scouting for both boys and girls.
The Upper West Side of Manhattan was once seen as the arty,
slightly bohemian cousin to the old-monied Upper East Side.
But that distinction has sort of fallen away, as the neighborhood
now is the most expensive and desirable in the entire city.
With a proliferation of small shops, restaurants, and access
to nearby Central Park, the area has seen an influx of young
upwardly-mobile families, giving it an almost suburban feel.
An elderly priest officiated with the assistance of a younger
priest and lay reader. Their names weren't listed anywhere,
and I didn't get a chance to meet him on the way out.
The date & time:
Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012, 12.30pm.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Pushing 500. The galleries were opened up to accommodate the
overflow, but it was still standing room only below.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No. We had to scramble around to find someone to show us how
to get upstairs into the gallery. The nave was packed.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pews in the galleries are slightly miniaturized, with smaller
seats and straighter backs. I felt as though I were perched
on a limb like a bird.
How would you describe the pre-service
Pretty lively, with lots of folks jockeying for seats. Some
ushers would have been helpful.
What were the exact opening words of the
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
What books did the congregation use during the
Today's Missal and an immense service bulletin that
covered the entire Easter triduum.
What musical instruments
A string quartet of violins, viola and cello and a fantastic
organ, an opus of the Orgues Létourneau Ltée of Quebec, and
the only one of its kind in New York City. I would have loved
to have heard this organ play some French 20th century works.
The organ case is quite beautiful, and the sound is equally
stunning. There was also an outstanding choir of 10 men and
Did anything distract
The gallery smelled overwhelmingly of Lemon Pledge furniture
polish. I suppose it got a fresh dusting in anticipation of
all the crowds. Also, sitting in the gallery, we had a birds
eye view of the congregation below. And it was fun to pick out
all the hats, although there weren't many in bright colors.
This being New York City, it tended to black, black, and more
black. Sober Easter bonnets seem a bit sad to me.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Reserved and formal without being stuffy. The mass setting was
an early Haydn Missa Brevis which was light,
fluffy and elegant, and really well done. The collect, gospel
reading and eucharistic and Lord's Prayers were chanted. The
congregation was asperged and censed, but in place of a sanctus
bell, the organist did a run on a glockenspiel, prompting hastily
stifled laughter from my friend and me.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
5 The elderly priest, whoever he was, spoke with authority
and was quite an effective speaker, using dramatic pauses to
much success. He also had a slight English accent, which my
friend found charming. However, I'd say the homily was a triumph
of style over substance.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
There was a bit about the hope that comes at Easter with the
promise of redemption, but even looking at my notes, I no have
real way of reconstructing what he said.
Which part of the service was like being in
Definitely the music! Two sopranos were standouts: one with
a lovely coloratura just perfect for the Haydn, and the other
with a heavier dramatic voice.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
Sitting as we were, perched in the dome, both my friend and
I noticed a couple in the front of the nave getting more than
a little touchy-feely. Who knew Easter was such a turn-on?
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. Nobody approached us. We wandered about a bit to look
at the rest of the church, then headed out for brunch.
How would you describe the after-service
If there was one, I didn't know about it.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 Great music, but I felt a bit anonymous. However, to be fair, it was a massive crowd, so how welcoming could they be?
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. Great music is, I feel, a gift of God.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The quality of singing, especially the Sanctus.
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