St Mark's Cathedral, Minneapolis, MN

St Mark's Cathedral, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Mark's Cathedral
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 18 August 2013, 10:30am

The building

It is a neo-Gothic building in the perpendicular style, with the usual two aisles and a high clerestory, but without transepts. The ribbed vaulting is fairly simple, but the spaces are filled with light colored stones in a geometric pattern, adding visual interest. Erected as the parish's third building in 1908, with the idea that it might become a cathedral, it attained that status in 1941. It hosted the First World Anglican Congress in 1954 and this is marked by the installation in the floor of the nave of the first Anglican Compass Rose designed by the late Canon Edward N. West.

The church

The church is intentionally inclusive and welcoming. Some members were wearing "Ask Me" buttons and offered informed answers to questions about the cathedral. Mrs Liturgist actually worshiped there when growing up, but has been away for nearly 50 years.

The neighborhood

The cathedral is located in the center of the city, on the edge of Loring Park. Some museums, the Tyrone Guthrie Theater, and a large Presbyterian church are nearby. We saw an ad for a new condominium building, but the area did not appear to be largely residential.

The cast

The Revd Dr Mildred L. Cox, assistant priest, was the celebrant, assisted by the Revd Deacon Patrick Markie. The Revd Canon Richard H. Norman, Jr preached. The organist was Raymond Johnston, and the lectors were Kathy McGill and Sylvia Foreman. Other lay and ordained participants were not individually identified.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Eucharist, Rite II.

How full was the building?

The building seats about 900 and was nearly half full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

We took advantage of the elevator to enter from the parish house. A group of greeters welcomed us and took time for brief conversation in addition to giving us bulletins.

Was your pew comfortable?

The pews were cushioned and quite comfortable. We wound up in the front pew, which had no kneelers (others did), but many people stood for most of the prayers anyway.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

The prelude (Couperin's Agnus Dei) was in progress, and the atmosphere was quiet and reverent. (The greeters were just outside the worship space.)

What were the exact opening words of the service?

Announcements preceded the service and began with: "Good morning." After a pause, worship began with the hymn: "Lift high the cross."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The Book of Common Prayer 1979 and the Hymnal 1982 were in the pews and were used. Some additional material was in the bulletins.

What musical instruments were played?

The organ, an opus of Foley-Baker Inc. of Tolland, Connecticut, dating from 2012, that incorporates some of the pipework from the original 1929 Welte organ and some later additions by the Kimball and Moller companies. The result is a magnificent instrument beautifully suited to the space.

Did anything distract you?

Canon Norman wore an alb with a large cowl type of hood/collar that kept reminding us of John the Baptist after his close encounter with Salome.

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

The worship pattern was traditional and fairly formal, but not stiff. The leaders seemed to know what they were doing, and did it without fussing.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

13 minutes.

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

8 – For some reason it is more difficult to hear speech from the pulpit than from the altar or choir – Canon Norman projected well, but it was still harder to follow the sermon than the announcements he had made earlier.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The topic was divisions on earth, from the gospel of the day: Luke 12:49-56 (Jesus says that he came not to bring peace, but rather division). He began with the story of St Francis (whose statue is on the pulpit) and his confrontation with his father as an illustration of such a division. The point drawn from this was that such divisions require us to make decisions, and we need to work to make the right ones.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The organ and organist, who came out of the English cathedral tradition and represented it excellently.

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

What bothered us the most was that most of the sermon's suggested "right decisions" were strongly on the politically liberal side (probably welcome to most of the congregation but not to us).

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

We wandered around to see the cathedral. Many of the people spoke and at least one did mention that coffee was on the lawn. As we had seen the set-up on the way in, no further directions were needed.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Adequate, and it was served in real china. We fell in with a small but friendly group, but didn't speak with anyone else.

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

7 – Of course it's a long commute, and we would tend to look for a more conservative atmosphere. However, the music was great, the sermon did make a valid point, and there was a sense of reverence and devotion there.

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


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

Two actually: the organ playing and John the Baptist.

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