Saturday, November 12, 2011

New York Fall - Sunday Morning

Whenever we travel on a Sunday, we like to visit and worship at a local church. The older the better, in my view. So we had decided to return to Trinity Wall Street. It is a magnificent 165-year-old Gothic revival cathedral in the heart of the big city, on the corner of Broadway and Wall Street.

Trinity Church from Wall Street
The original church was built in 1698, using tackle provided by the famous privateer William Kidd. It was destroyed by fire during the Revolutionary War and rebuilt in 1790. George Washington had attended nearby Trinity Chapel, and then attended the second church once construction was completed. This building was in turn torn down due to being weakened by heavy snows and the third and current church was completed in 1846.

Trinity Church Birds Eye view 1846
Attending church in this historic building is kind of magical at first. One imagines Alexander Hamilton walking down the same aisle on a Sunday, sitting in the same pew. Or George Washington in his finest jacket and silk breeches, his best leather shoes and a fine tri-cornered hat under his arm, escorting Martha to their reserved pew near the front.

This day the organist began with a piece from the 17th century by an Italian, Frescobaldi, one movement of Fiores Musicali (“Musical Flowers”). The effect was actually electrifying.

Then the huge choir processed in and sang “Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord”. I have gotten used to things in Manhattan being generally of the first quality, and this choir was one of the best I have heard. They sounded terrific, especially in the vast interior of this stone Gothic cathedral.

The beauty of the sights and sounds began to meld into the familiarity of the service. The Collect was read, the choir sang Psalm 107 (“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures forever”) and sounded like a band of angels.

A young girl rose from the congregation, mounted the layman’s pulpit, and in a clear calm voice read the Epistle (from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, 2:9-13).

Then a priest, with great ceremony, surrounded by four people carrying candles, another carrying a tall crucifix and a sixth carrying the Bible, read the Gospel, Matthew 23:1-12:

Another priest in impressive robes stepped down into the congregation to speak. He read from some papers which he held in his hand. Here is his sermon, as a webcast.

(Note the bald man in a light colored shirt with the beautiful woman in brown in the eighth pew back, left side of church, aisle side of the pew. I’m on TV! [OK, webcast…])

I encourage you to listen to this sermon, even if you are not a believer or church-goer. Think about what you would say if you were a priest addressing a Wall Street congregation about hypocrisy. How would you talk about the Occupy Wall Street protesters to a crowd of well-to-do Manhattanites in the context of Jesus’ message about the hypocrites in the church? This speaker, The Reverend Mark Bozutti-Jones, was masterful.

I have a written summary of the sermon, but it is too long to include here. Shoot me an email or a comment below and I will forward it to you.

One point he makes is that it is easier to talk about love and justice than to do it. That every human heart has light and compassion, and good, even those people working in the financial system on Wall Street.

Then he quotes the last part: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

He says that being human means getting involved, getting our hands dirty, getting our lives dirty. Being human is never wrong, never evil, it means being able to love every person equally, and desire justice for each person, independence, welcome, hospitality for every other human.

The Reverend Bozzuti-Jones asked us to be humble, to try teaching humility through our actions, not to oppress others but to be humble.

When he ended his sermon something unexpected happened. People applauded. Listen to the webcast and you will know why this crowd of people in this solemn, old stone cathedral felt compelled to break with tradition by spontaneously erupting into applause at the conclusion of this sermon.

Walking down Broadway after church I was still thinking about what he had said. I remembered my reaction to one of the signs I had seen at Zucotti Park. It read “God Hates Banks”. I remembered saying at the time that I couldn’t agree with that one, and now I knew why.

Next: Another look at Occupy Wall Street

No comments:

Post a Comment