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2503: Church of the Heavenly Rest, New York City

Read this report | Other comments

April 18, 2013

I believe the referenced report is inaccurate in certain ways.  Perhaps you could arrange it to be updated?

The bulletin handed to each worshipper at the service stated: "After today’s services, join us for coffee, refreshments, and hospitality in front of the chancel steps.  We have an information table in the narthex where you can learn more about us."  I confirmed this with our communications manager, who oversees all the bulletins and announcements.   I think it is possible your Mystery Worshipper and his guest misheard.

At any rate, when the service ended, our coffee hour was within plain sight of the narthex, where a group of 30-50 parishioners always hang out after the service.  Tables with food and coffee are set up immediately and visibly. Down the aisles, within easy sight of the narthex, myself, two others greeters with name tags identifying our roles, and about 30-50 parishioners had already begun enjoying fellowship and food. All three clergy members stand near the end of the aisles, close to the narthex, between the pews and the exit, shaking hands with and greeting worshippers.  One would have to work hard actually to avoid meeting them.

My wife and I and at least one other person from our team of 20 volunteers, plus lay greeters, are on duty after each service to mingle with newcomers and greet anyone and everyone whom we don't recognize. That morning we also had a docent (a nice older woman named Virginia) on duty, sitting at a desk in the narthex looking official, with brochures about the church and such in front of her, who could have easily answered a question on where to go for the coffee hour.  It's possible we might miss someone now and then, but highly unlikely, assuming that visitor is not hiding in a closet somewhere or quite purposefully keeping to him or herself.

I respectfully request an amendment to the published post, if at all possible.  The church family and staff and I care a lot about our church's level of warmth and welcome and our reputation in the community, and would like to have a fair representation online.

I will admit, though, that there are certainly some stuffy, historically overly-formal parts of living and worshipping on the Upper East Side of New York City. Church of the Heavenly Rest is not one of them. The warmth of our parishioners is sincere and contagious.  Come visit and you'll see!

Your blog post has been read by our team of 20 volunteer greeters, our clergy, and our vestry.  Thanks for the insights, and thanks for striving to for accuracy.

David Chapman

Acton Bell replies:

What we experienced was accurately represented in my report. Both my friend and I felt a bit anonymous. Nobody sought us out as newcomers before the service, and nobody came to our aid when we stood in our pew looking lost at the end of the service. And no, neither of us was "hiding in a closet somewhere or quite purposefully keeping to [ourselves]."

In fact, I would argue that we gave looking for the coffee hour more of an effort than a casual visitor would, since I wanted to attend for the sake of the report. Neither of us thought to look behind us at the chancel, especially as we both heard that coffee was to be in the narthex. We did, however, check the coffee house next door, thinking that it might be there.

I must say that I find this comment incredibly distressing, as it looks to explain the lack of hospitality we experienced as somehow our fault. How boorish of us not to have searched more actively for the coffee hour, or not to have read the bulletin more carefully, or not to have sought out people to talk to. The suggestion that what I reported could not possibly have been my actual experience is particularly distressing.

None of which, I might add, makes me yearn for a repeat visit, as it all seems a bit – well, dare I say it – inhospitable.

I stand by my reporting.

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