Christ Church, Bronxville, NY (Exterior)

Christ Church, Bronxville, New York, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Christ Church
Location: Bronxville, New York, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 19 May 2013, 10:00am

The building

It is of rough-hewn stone in the Early English style, with a nave, two aisles, and a fairly long chancel. The walls of the aisles are plastered and the ceilings are wood, but the remainder is exposed stone with a number of stained glass windows. The only real use of color is bright accents painted on the ceiling. The altar is at the east wall with riddell (side) curtains and a wooden relief of the Last Supper as a reredos.

The church

The website lists many activities, both for members and as outreach, for all age groups. There seems to be a strong focus on mission, both local and worldwide. The church advertises itself as Sarum (or English) use adapted to the American Book of Common Prayer.

The neighborhood

The village of Bronxville is in Westchester County, just north of New York City, and is considered to be one of the wealthiest communities in the United States. This is reflected in the housing and occasional commercial buildings in the area around the church.

The cast

The Revd Michael A. Bird, rector, was both celebrant and preacher. He was assisted by a deacon and subdeacon who were not named (and do not appear on the website as staff). The organist was Christopher Wells.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Eucharist with Baptisms and First Communion.

How full was the building?

Nearly all of the 240 plus seats in the nave were taken. We were not the last ones in, but we did get the last printed bulletin.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

An usher greeted us as we came in and apologized for only having one bulletin for the two of us.

Was your pew comfortable?

The church is set up with chairs, not outstanding but definitely not uncomfortable. There was plenty of space between rows, making movement easy.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

The organist was playing the Stanford Voluntary in D Minor as we arrived, and people seemed attentive.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

The service was introduced by three verses and responses from Romans 6:9-11, starting :"We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Only the Hymnal 1982; the rest of the service was printed in the bulletin.

What musical instruments were played?

Just the organ, a very fine sounding opus of the Casavant Frères firm of Québec, installed in 2009.

Did anything distract you?

There were three distractions: (1) despite the Sarum claims, many of the distinctive (and appropriate) features of that use were simply not seen; (2) the choices of what to say and what to sing were rather erratic; and (3) the rector offered a longish commentary on the baptismal part of the service that, although quite helpful, disrupted the flow of the service.

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

Traditional but not overly formal Anglo-Catholic. For example, at the peace we all greeted our neighbors without anyone running around the whole building.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

8 minutes.

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

7 – Father Mills spoke very clearly and understandably, with a style that emphasized contrasts. He began with "glass half full" and "glass half empty" views of the coming of the Spirit, and also made the contrast between the red vestments of Pentecost and the white baptismal garments that gave the day old name of Whitsunday.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

He spoke of how the coming of the Spirit brought the men in the upper room from being disciples (followers) into being apostles (witnesses), and offered this as a challenge and calling for us.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The music! The organ and choir were both top-notch, with choral selections from Craig Phillips, Alessandro Scarlatti, David Hurd and Peter Hurford. Most of the service settings were written for congregational singing and were sung with enthusiasm by the people.

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

Since Anglo-Catholic worship tends to be highly visual, it was unfortunate to be in the back of a crowded church where it was difficult to follow much of the action. There was also a dearth of incense (though we were spared an excess of brimstone).

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

A friendly woman sitting in front of us introduced us to the rector. They both urged us to join the coffee hour.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

The coffee was good and hot but served in paper cups – I maintain that if God wanted us to burn our fingers he would never have invented styrofoam. There were other beverages and several edibles, including mini bagels and lox-infused cream cheese as well as fresh fruit and cakes. Alas, once we got there, we lost sight of the friendly lady from the church who had invited us, and no one else spoke to us except one of the clergy (and only after we had spoken first).

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

6 – We chose to go there this time because of the Sarum claims. I should be happy to visit there again, but would want those claims better fulfilled before I would consider making it our regular church. Even so, I don't really want to drive an hour each way every week.

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

Yes it did. There was a real sense of reverence and of devotion that overcame most of the negatives.

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

The six baptisms – infants, older children and one adult.

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