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|1689: St Luke
in the Fields, New York City
Luke in the Fields, New York City.
The Episcopal Church, Diocese
of New York.
St Luke in the Fields was the subject of an
earlier Mystery Worship report and is well described there.
Since then there have been no substantial changes to the building
that I could see.
St Luke's celebrates three eucharists plus a healing service
each Sunday, and once each weekday evening. They also conduct
ongoing discussion groups, prayer groups, Bible studies and
other courses. Their professional choir is famous; there are
regular concerts with lectures on the music. There is also a
thrift shop in addition to the school and the HIV/lesbian-gay-bisexual-transsexual
youth outreach ministries.
The church stands just south of the intersection of Christopher
and Hudson Streets. This is the part of New York's Greenwich
Village known as the West Village. It is lovely, historical,
full of famous cafés, restaurants, jazz clubs and taverns. The
West Village features quiet, narrow, tree-lined residential
streets, courtyards and gardens, and has historically been (and
still is) home to many important literary and artistic figures.
Bleecker Street, Christopher Street, the Stonewall Inn (birthplace
of the gay movement), New York University, many interesting
shops and parks – all can be found in this most celebrated part
of Manhattan. Please refer to the earlier report mentioned above
for other interesting facts about the area.
The Revd Mary Foulke, senior associate, was the celebrant, and
the Revd Hugh M. Grant, curate, preached. Presiding at the organ
was David Schuler, director of music.
The date & time:
4 January 2009, 11.15am.
What was the name of the service?
The Holy Eucharist.
How full was the building?
Three-quarters to seven-eights full. The congregation were mainly
ages 30-60, casually dressed, and completely gay-friendly.
Did anyone welcome you
Yes, I was handed a service booklet and welcomed.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, it was comfortable enough. The pews are wooden, without
cushions, but still comfortable, and there are fold-out padded
kneelers. Above the book holders there is a flat surface on
which one might leave an open hymnal, reading glasses, and even
take notes or fill out welcome cards. A nice feature, I thought.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Fairly quiet, with some low talking.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit" was
chanted by the celebrant.
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
The Prayer Book 1979, the Hymnal 1982, and
Wonder, Love and Praise. But the service booklet
24 pages long had everything we needed as well as information
about all the parish's activities and ministries.
What musical instruments
Pipe organ, installed in 1986 by the Canadian firm Casavant
Freres, Limitee, St-Hyacinthe, Quebec.
Did anything distract
The sun coming through the windows was quite beautiful. At one
point it was almost blinding and threw part of the room into
darkness – I found myself taken by that and lost where I was
during the service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Very high but not stiff, with much chant, incense, bells, and
glorious music. The gospel was chanted and the alleluia was
plainsong mode IV, but most of the prayers and responses used
contemporary language. The congregational singing was the strongest
of any church I've been at. Everything suitable for singing
was sung, and I felt as if I were singing with a huge choir.
In many churches I've attended, the congregation hardly sings
at all in this church, almost everyone sings and sounds
good. The service booklet devoted two pages to the names of
those in need of prayer, and so we were spared the long litany
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Father Grant seems to be a low-key, rather scholarly
preacher. Concise but thought-provoking sermon.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
As the Magi followed stars to Jesus and avoided Herod on their
return, we also can follow the light and avoid the darkness
Which part of the service was like being in
The sunlight and music, thoughts from the sermon.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The distraction of the sunlight was a bit disconcerting and
I also smeared chocolate on my service leaflet (see below).
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Coffee hour had been announced, but no one came up to me to
show me where it was being held. Finally I had to ask someone.
People were very friendly once I got there.
How would you describe the after-service
There were cookies, tea, coffee – it was those cookies that I somehow got smeared on my service leaflet and felt like a pig. They were homemade chunky cookies that were probably some of the best I've had.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 It was a lovely service and I would like to return.
The music is outstanding and there is a very positive and enthusiastic
feeling one gets from the congregation. Everyone is super friendly
and there is a helpful booklet welcoming newcomers, but I do
think people should take a bit of care to welcome someone personally
who might feel a bit lost.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. This seems to be a congregation that is very active and
involved and where members know each other.
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
I really hate to say the cookies ... but I certainly also remember points of the homily and the the sunlight and music effect.
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