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762: Trinity Cathedral, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
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Trinity Cathedral, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Sumtil.
The church: Trinity Cathedral, Trenton, New Jersey, USA – the cathedral church for the Diocese of New Jersey.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: Dedicated in 1954, the building is 20th century Gothic. Cruciform in layout, its warm, blushing peach walls give a warmth not often associated with Gothic. The nave was never completed to its original design because of financial difficulties. Among the cathedral's treasures are icons in the south transept, the pastoral staff (crozier), and the communion silver.
The church: Trinity is also a parish and ministers to a wide and varied group, including all ages and many ethnic groups. It is also the center for diocesan events.
The neighbourhood: Once a residential neighborhood with large mansions, the area became somewhat tarnished and now is being revitalized as former residences are becoming offices or apartment houses. The area is not far from the New Jersey State Capitol and its complex in downtown Trenton. West State Street is a wide avenue and gives one an inpression of great space and not that of a downtown city.
The cast: The Most Rev. Frank Tracy Griswold III, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church; The Rt Rev. George Phelps Mellick Belshaw, Bishop of New Jersey; The Rt Rev. Andrew Frederick Wissemann, Bishop of Western Massachusetts; The Rt Rev. Gordon Paul Scruton, Bishop of Western Massachusetts; The Rt Rev. William Dailey Persell, Bishop of Chicago; The Rev. Alan M. Gates, priest-in-charge of the Church of the Holy Spirit, Lake Forest, Illinois, preacher; many bishops of the Episcopal church; clergy of the Diocese of New Jersey, ecumencil guests; choristers from the parishes in the diocese; Janes H. Litton, Director of Music; Andrew P. Moore, organist; thurifers, crucifers, torchbearers, and banner bearers too numerous to list.
What was the name of the service?
The Ordination and Consecration of George Edward Councell as Eleventh Bishop of New Jersey.

How full was the building?
More than bulging at the seams with additional seating in the chapel, the crypt and in two tents on the front lawn. Those not in the cathedral saw the service via closed circuit television and heard it on loudspeakers. All seating areas were filled to capacity... and then some!

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Everyone received a warm welcome from cathedral ushers, diocesan staff, cathedral staff and the clergy.

Was your pew comfortable?
Sumtil had a seat in the great quire just to the right of the organ console, from which he had a splendid view of the entire service except for the examination of the Bishop-elect, which was conducted in the tent outside the south transept, but heard throughout.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Boisterous! Friends greeting each other, musical groups, singers and instrumentalists, dancers providing a wide variety of musical offerings in the cathedral, chapel, crypt, and tents before the liturgy.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The complete order of service was printed so there was no need for use of the Book of Common Prayer (1979) or of any hymnals or other music.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ, flute, and before the liturgy many instruments too numerous to list. The organ was the principal instrument of the mass.

Did anything distract you?
This was such a festive occasion, there could have been what one might consider distractions if it were an "ordinary" service.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was an admirable blend of the best of Anglo-Catholic combined with the inclusivity of having the lesson and the Gospel read in more than one language, Spanish and Igbo being the additional languages.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
23 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – His delivery was excellent.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He put into the sermon the themes of the lessons for the feast of St Luke the Evangelist, whose day it was. He made allusions to some American baseball incidents, laced his sermon with appropriate humour, and gave a stirring charge to the bishop-elect. Totally appropriate to the occasion.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The magnificent organ playing and congregational singing, the wonderful smell of the incense, and the warm spirituality so apparent on this grand day. The diocese went all out to welcome Father (soon to be Bishop) Councell.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was a moment of sheer wonder. The first thurifer knew his job very well. Clouds of incense led the procession with the thurifer swinging full circles and figure eights. He forgot that the great quire was narrower because of tables for communion vessels, and as he entered the quire, the thurible clipped a table, and we were treated to fireworks. Fortunately no harm to anything. Simultaneous processions entering the cathedral would have shortened the length of the service. The retiring processiion was a disaster.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not a chance of that. Each of the diocesan convocations had prepared a magnificent reception with delicious food and drink – the Episcopalians at their culinary and social best. This was party time, both liturgically and socially.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was wonderful. Such a wide variety of food and drink. We should do this weekly.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – but it is just too far from home.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely! If every church patterned its worship after this, there would be no empty pews. It was also a great day to be an Episcopalian in New Jersey!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The magnificent organ playing combined with the joy of worshipping the one, true God in the beauty of holiness!
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