Trinity UMC, Denver (Exterior)

Trinity United Methodist, Denver, Colorado, USA


Info and corrections →

Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Trinity United Methodist
Location: Denver, Colorado, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 7 July 2013, 11:00am

The building

This is a beautiful 19th century stone building with glorious stained glass windows. The windows are mostly colored in various shades of gold, amber and brown, with aqua and ruby accents. The interior of the church has carved wood (it looked like oak to me), which gives it a warm and inviting look. The curved balcony is very attractive.

The church

From their website: "Trinity is a church that strives to support and nurture its members." There are groups for children, youth and adults, as well as (again quoting from their website) "a vibrant music and arts ministry that offers opportunities for people of all ages to practice their art and grow their souls through music, drama, writing, and arts education." They also have a program that provides financial resources and outreach to downtown Denver's needy. A few years ago they sponsored a mission trip to a Methodist church in Pushkin, Russia.

The neighborhood

A nice combination of modern buildings and lovely old structures. The venerable Brown Hotel, a Denver landmark for over a century, is especially striking. Famous guests at the hotel have included the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown, a survivor of the Titanic disaster and the subject of a Broadway musical and motion picture of her life story; Queen Marie of Romania; Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Warren Harding, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bill Clinton; and oh yes, the Beatles.

The cast

Guest pastor was the Revd Jack Van Ens, a Presbyterian minister who writes a daily newspaper column and heads Creative Growth, Inc., a conservative religious-based organization that (according to its website) "builds awareness and understanding of historic American values and virtues through up-to-date and down-to-earth dramatic stories." Pastor Van Ens was assisted by the Revd Linda Marshall, minister of nurture; and the Revd Miriam Slejko, minister of discipleship. Also participating were Kathy Gibb, director of children's ministry; Lee Anderson, care coordinator; and several musicians.

What was the name of the service?

Patriotic Service

How full was the building?

The building was about 70 per cent full. There were more than 50 choristers in the choir loft. The sanctuary was full enough to feel like a comfortable community, but not so full as to be crowded. Every age group was represented, but I think the middle aged and older group was the largest.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Two ladies greeted us warmly outside of the building, and gave me directions to the elevator after seeing my cane. A friendly usher gave us a bulletin and information sheet. Others smiled and said hello.

Was your pew comfortable?

Our tallest party member was cramped at her seat in front of the hymn rack. After we traded places, my short legs were just fine in that spot. I hope we didn't entertain too many folks playing musical pews!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

There was a lot of friendly greeting going on. These people seemed to be very happy to be in the house of the Lord. As we settled into our seats, there was a special treat: the organist and a guest organist played an organ duet. The chancel choir then sang an a cappella choral welcome from the back of the sanctuary.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning. Welcome to worship at Trinity."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, and the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?

An 83 rank Frank and Hilborne Roosevelt organ, opus 380, which was installed in 1888. A lovely instrument! The Roosevelts, cousins of Theodore Roosevelt, were pioneers of innovation in organ building, including the use of electric action. A 1911 model B Steinway grand piano was used to accompany the choir. It had recently been refurbished and is a real beauty! Unfortunately, it didn't seem to have a lot of "guts", but perhaps the accompanist (who played very well) was trying to play softly. There was also a flute ensemble.

Did anything distract you?

My distraction was my own. I found myself looking everywhere, taking in the details of this beautiful building. The only distraction not caused in my own head was the drastic and quick dimming of the lights during the pastoral prayer, and when they brightened again after the choir's anthem.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

This was a traditional service, but it was definitely not stiff. There was a very discernible feeling of family and – dare I say – love?

Exactly how long was the sermon?

39 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

10 – This was not your typical style of preaching, even if not completely unknown! Dr Van Ens was dressed as the 18th century Presbyterian minister Jonathan Edwards, whose fire-and-brimstone sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is regarded as one of the classics of early American literature.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Jonathan Edwards – oops, I mean Dr Van Ens – gave a little history of the early 18th century religious revival movement known as the Great Awakening, which happened "two score years before the American Revolution". His main point was to let us know that God thinks highly of us. We are the apple of God's eye.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Being a part of this community of faith filled me with joy! I can't help but think that this is a taste of what we will experience in that sweet by and by. And a humorous note: Dr Van Ens, dressed in his Jonathan Edwards costume, was speaking at one point to a group of children and asked them who they thought he was. "I know!" one child piped up. "You're a vampire!"

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

I really hate to say this (sigh). The postlude was another organ duet: The Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa (arranged by Elizabeth and Raymond Chenault.) It sounded, erm, unpracticed. It fell apart several times, and was difficult for me (as an organist) to listen to.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

Actually, I wanted (blush) to look at the organ, so I practically ran to the front of the church to question the organist (and to hope that I could put my fingers on the thing, but that didn't happen). My companions were happily shepherded away on a tour of the church, and I was still talking to the organist when they came back. So, none of us felt lost at all!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

They had coffee in the Trinity Cafe, but I never made it there. The pull of the Roosevelt organ, you know!

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

9 – It would be a very long commute for me, but I would have no problem returning to worship at Trinity the next time I'm in Denver.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Very glad! Being with God's people is such a great way to start the day!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The sparkly Uncle Sam hat on the organ console (see photo above). Make of that what you will!

Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you’d like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.

Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Comments and corrections

To comment, please scroll to the end of this report and add your thoughts there. To send us factual corrections, please contact us. We also discuss reports on our Ecclesiantics bulletin board.

© Ship of Fools