Mystery Worshipper: Saint Hedrin
Church: Holy Trinity
Location: Forbes Park, Makati City, the Philippines
Date of visit: Sunday, 11 June 2006, 9:30am
A modern building of wood and stone dating from the late 1960s. The interior is done with minimal frills, the result being a clean contrast between the white walls and dark furniture. The steeply pitched roof results in a feeling of space, helped by a skylight that bathes the sanctuary in natural light for daytime worship.
The church was founded in Manila around the end of World War II to serve the ex-patriate community in the metropolis. The present site in Makati still keeps this mission, providing both a spiritual haven for Anglican/Episcopalian ex-pats who came to Manila to work in the diplomatic missions and multinational corporations. The congregation itself is a multicultural one, drawing its members from among Manila residents and the international community. Trinity served as the cathedral of the diocese of Central Philippines from 1990, when the Episcopal Church in the Philippines became an independent member province of the worldwide Anglican communion, until 2003. Trinity also maintains a columbarium and hosts various community groups that lack a permanent base of operations, such as the American Women's Club.
Trinity is located in the upscale neighborhood of Forbes Park, a residential enclave close to the central business district of Makati, the financial hub of the metropolis. Forbes Park is home to the upper crust of Manila society and some top-rank diplomats. Not far from Trinity are a Roman Catholic church, a shopping centre, and the Ayala Mall complex, noted for its fine shops and restaurants and its large outdoor garden.
The Rev. Tyler A. Strand, rector, was celebrant and preacher, assisted by the Rev. Barry Cumberland. Philip Thoburn, senior warden, and Andrew Malpass, junior warden and clerk of the vestry, were servers. There were also five acolytes.
What was the name of the service?Sung Eucharist
How full was the building?
Three-fourths capacity, say almost a hundred people.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was given the customary "Good morning" as I was handed the service booklet and bulletin for the day. More greetings came after the service, over lunch, and at the mini-concert that followed.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was just the right height, wooden and sturdy. The armrests were okay. The kneelers were thickly padded (around three or four inches) but narrower than most kneelers I've seen and used.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I walked in on the choir rehearsing the day's anthems. I noticed one gentleman reading his Bible and a few other people at prayer.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, and welcome to this holy day." Father Strand then spoke about how Trinity Sunday was especially significant as the parish's feast of title.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
I was handed a bilingual service booklet as I entered. In the pews, I found a 1982 Hymnal and the Holy Bible, New International Version. There was also a Book of Common Prayer but it was not used.
What musical instruments were played?
An electronic organ and a grand piano (separately played) accompanied the two choirs present: the regular Trinity choir and the University of the East's Chorale.
Did anything distract you?
Some children in the pew in front of mine were making quite a bit of noise. One of the Chorale members sported a mohawk haircut that, thankfully, wasn't dyed chartreuse or any other strange colour. Near the door there was an odd-looking Trinity crucifix incorporating the three Persons in a cruciform depiction that gave the Father a head that was out of proportion. There was also a plaque in brass that acknowledged the family who donated the stained glass windows. They bore the same surname as mine, which is not at all a common surname in these parts.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Definitely high up the candle, but far from being rigid. The structure remained, and the execution was flawless. Some bells, but almost no smells.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Crisp, academic, and delivered in a well-modulated voice despite microphone failure.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
A few remarks on the concept of the Trinity as fundamental to Christian orthodoxy, and how the Trinity is the ideal model for all Christians: being of one mind and one accord.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sight of a sanctuary bathed in natural light was heavenly enough, but the singing surely lifted me even higher. A patriotic song was inserted during the communion (it was the eve of Philippine Independence Day) and this almost moved me to tears.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The microphone going on and off was irksome. And there was the usual mobile phone discourtesy that is always committed by the absent-minded churchgoer despite red signs posted all over the sanctuary. After the luncheon that followed mass, the University of the East's Chorale gave a short concert in the sanctuary, and mobile phones were especially annoying then.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were all herded into the garden to partake of the special lunch that had been set out on the occasion of the church's feast of title. Warden Thoburn spoke with me a bit and invited me to stay both for lunch and the concert that was to follow.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was much food, lots of rice and pasta, several different chicken dishes, meat loaf, and more. For dessert there were cakes, chocolate, and lots of local sweets. There was brewed coffee to drink, as well as apple juice, canned soda, and even beer (both light and super dry).
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I liked the atmosphere and the welcoming congregation, plus the possibility that I may have Anglican roots buried in this parish.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Definitely! I felt like my faith was reinforced.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Drinking beer on church property. Here in the Philippines it's unusual for anyone to be drinking alcohol (save communion wine) in and around church.