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|1672: St Ann
and the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn Heights, New York, USA
St Ann and the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn Heights, New York, USA.
The Episcopal Church, Diocese
of Long Island.
Originally called Church of the Holy Trinity, the building dates
from 1848 and was designed by the early 19th century architect
Minard Lafever, many of whose buildings (including this one)
have been declared national historic landmarks. The church is
one of the finest masterpieces of the Gothic Revival style in
America. The building exterior is unfortunately partly obscured
by scaffolding; restoration is ongoing. The spire is missing,
apparently for many decades. This gives the tower a cut-off
look on top and is rather unsettling. The soaring, elaborate
interior features stained glass by William Jay Bolton, the first
artist in America to fabricate figural stained-glass windows.
The interior stone work noticeably needs repairs, and I think
it makes it more accessible and endearing than some of the meticulous
churches I have visited. The building has a quiet, spiritual
atmosphere. The highly ornamented altarpiece features a stone
relief of the Last Supper at its center.
A clash between the bishop and rival factions within the parish
led to the closure and dissolution, in 1959, of Holy Trinity
Church. In 1969, the nearby St Ann's Church moved out of its
crumbling building into the former Holy Trinity Church, and
the parish changed its name to St Ann and the Holy Trinity.
The present congregation is small but admirably scrappy, having
survived numerous problems. Since the 1980s the church has involved
itself heavily in the performing arts, serving as home to the
Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra among other groups. It also houses
ECPAT, an organization working toward ending the sexual exploitation
of children, and the administrative offices of the Brooklyn
Doll and Toy Museum.
The church is located at 157 Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights,
one subway stop from Manhattan. This is an historic landmark
district, filled with banks, stores, cafes and restaurants.
It has become an expensive and extremely popular area. The lovely
residential streets are still full of interesting historic buildings.
It is also close to the main Brooklyn post office and court
buildings, the downtown Brooklyn area, and the promenade, a
very popular esplanade with benches along the East River. Residents
over the years have included the abolitionist clergyman Henry
Ward Beecher (whose sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote Uncle
Tom's Cabin), poet Walt Whitman, playwright Arthur Miller,
authors Norman Mailer and Truman Capote, actresses Marilyn Monroe
and Mary Tyler Moore, songwriter Bob Dylan, and dozens of other
The Revd Angela V. Askew, priest-in-charge; Gregory Eaton, organist
and music director.
The date & time:
November 16, 2008, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Only about 35-40 people, unfortunately. The building can seat
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. Upon entering, I was greeted and given a service leaflet
with music inserts.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. It was covered in brown velvet cushioning. The kneeler
was also comfortable, except that there was no open space behind
for my feet when kneeling, and I had to lean forward in the
half kneeling/half sitting position. It must have been designed
for a hobbit.
How would you describe the pre-service
There was some talking and a noisy child who had a mockingbird-like
repertoire. I could hardly wait for the organ prelude.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
Prayer Book 1979, Hymnal 1982, Lift Every
Voice and Sing, and Music for the Eucharist.
What musical instruments
Organ and choir. The organ is opus 524 of the EM Skinner Company,
dating from 1925 and modified with a new console in 1969.
Did anything distract you?
Yes, the noise from the child mentioned above and from another
child during communion who was playing with some toy telephone
or camera that made an annoying buzzing sound.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The worship was traditional and contemporary, with a couple
of hymns from the Lift Every Voice and Sing book and,
wonderfully, Aus Tiefer Not, Martin Luther's glorious
setting of psalm 130, which was provided in handout form. The
sung mass by David Hurd was especially lovely and tuneful. The
choir was small but very good; they sang a pieces from the 16th
century (Marenzio) and 19th/20th centuries (Parry). The worship
was unhurried, with time for prayer and reflection. It was not
a long liturgy, but the peace was a bit too long for me; everyone
seemed to shake everyone else's hand. I think this was only
because it was a very small congregation.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Mother Askew came a bit down the aisle to preach close
to the congregation, giving her sermon a personal and relaxed
touch. She had a slight British-sounding accent and excellent
diction; her sermon was down to earth, grounded in scripture
with a bit of dry humor.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Based on the gospel reading of the day, Matthew 25:14-30, about
the master entrusting his slaves with talents. God gives us
gifts so that we can live them and give them to others. There
were also many references to the first lesson, Judges 4:1-7,
about the Israelites who were acting like that slave who buried
Which part of the service was like being in
After communion, the organ played and there was time for prayer. It was a spiritual and moving time, being in that space and quiet. Often churches rush to the post-communion prayer or a hymn, but this was restful and refreshing.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
It often seems to be that in this world every piece of heaven
contains some of that other place. In this case it was
that nasty toy mentioned above that the child was playing with
during communion. And it was a little frustrating that I couldn't
kneel full out.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't have the chance. Mother Askew had announced coffee.
I thought I would stand in the back for a moment or two before
going to coffee just to see what would happen. After 30 seconds
a member of the congregation invited me to coffee and led me
there. Everyone I spoke to was extremely welcoming. The pastor
had announced that she had a meeting right after the service;
I never got to meet her.
How would you describe the after-service
Regular coffee, two types of tea, apple juice, three different
kinds of cakes and pies, various cookies, two types of cheese
and crackers, and a bowl of little chocolate bars and other
candy (possibly left over from Halloween).
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 It is the kind of church I would like to live near
so that I could pray and meditate every day in that sort of
atmosphere. The service was lovely, but I have mixed feelings
about being in a small, struggling congregation. I think it
might be difficult, but spiritually rewarding. I'm not sure.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, glad and thankful.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The feeling of peace during communion in that beautiful building despite kiddie noise, and the warm welcome of the congregation.
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