Free & Fit NYC - Grace Church Episcopal Visit and Reflection

Free & Fit NYC - Grace Church Episcopal Visit and Reflection - by Tim Cheux

On Sunday 23rd February 2020 Linda Brandt, Colin Williams and I, Tim Cheux, visited the beautiful French Medieval Gothic Anglican Church Grace Church Episcopal for the 11am morning prayer service. Upon arrival we were greeted by the Churches beautiful stature, two-hundred-and-thirty-foot spire and a wonderful greeting team with white lapel flowers. The Church is simply exquisite inside and exudes beauty, tradition, culture and wonder of Church history, promise and religion. The sacred depth of the Churches interior with iconic stained glass, beautiful exterior with Goblets, amazing East facing nave and wonderful Chapels for prayer, Children’s worship, the sacristy team and various types of ministry made us all feel very aware we were at Church!

As a group we have visited different Churches this semester including Holy Apostles, St Paul's Chapel and the Church of the Intercession. At Grace Church one thing felt very different, it felt like home and immediately gave us a sense of identity we had not experienced at the other Churches. Linda, Colin and I all explained how we felt more at home with the Churches high worship, central location and esteemed congregants. Without doubt, my hat, sports attire and shorts were out of place in this location. Next week's Anglo-Catholic visitation will be no different! Throughout the service we had efficient prompts for the service, the hymns were numbered and in direct site in our eyeline, the Book of Common prayer, Anglican hymnal and service books were provided for every individual worshipper. The Church had pews which were difficult for me to stretch my legs out and take my shoes off like I do in worship. I was personally grateful that there was no Eucharist as I would have felt embarrassed walking in socks, no trousers and in my hat up to the altar. On this occasion I would have had to perhaps to remain seating to respect the Church protocol, to stay low and avoid Eucharist.

Throughout the service we were blessed by the beautiful Boys and Men’s choir which sang beautifully and was led by General Seminaries very own organist Patrick Allen. However, it was interesting that there were two ladies also in the choir. Linda kindly informed me that one was a soprano to support the choir and another to sing solo along with the male tenors. Both sang fantastically. Grace Church also has a girls, ladies, parish and community choir so this was not surprising and perhaps this was to provide opportunities for the ladies to support and help the boys blossom in the choir. Furthermore, the choir represented all ages with some of the Children singing for us and also reading for us at one point in the service too.

During the service it was scheduled for Ethan Anderson to speak, but our very own seminarian, wisdom year resident, Thomas Szczebra read instead. This was great improvisation as the reader was not available in the immediacy of the reading; the rector and seminarian coordinated which seemed like a rehearsed solution if a reader were absent. The children were prompted to leave during worship, led by two priests, including Thomas, walked the ten children members for the children’s message to the designated Children’s Chapel and to study and receive their Sunday School message.

The worship included Anglican Chant, historical hymns and familiar famous Episcopal songs. We all sang, prayed, stood, sat and kneeled in typical Anglican and Episcopalian liturgical services and transitions. Coffee hour was fantastic, as outlined to me on my call with Sandra in the Church office, with New York Girl Scout cookies (handmade by New York’s very own Girl Scouts), Prosecco, Shrimp cocktail, fine tea and coffee condiments, table nibbles with fine snacks and food available for all. Each table was draped in beautiful tablecloths, with specific volunteers and people providing hospitality where required and necessary.