Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday at Holy Trinity Cathedral

Today we went to Holy Trinity Cathedral for the 9AM Eucharist, the third of three for the day. There was a respectable crowd, though I couldn’t begin to estimate numbers; all very dressy. I wonder if all the services are like that, or if some are more casual. I will have to ask at some point.

The cathedral itself is Romanesque, constructed of beige bricks on the outside and on the inside pillars, arches, and details. The inside walls are primarily white. In front, the walls of the sanctuary behind the altars (the primary altar and the two side chapels) are covered in brightly painted murals depicting biblical scenes. The best known is the one of the wedding in Cana. I will try to post photos later this summer; obviously it was not the best time to take pictures. The altar area is decorated with large potted palms.

The action of the liturgy is Anglo-Catholic in style. Lots of incense. Three priests concelebrating, including the Rev. Fernande Pierre Louis, the first woman priest in the Diocese of Haiti. Seventeen in the altar party (the three priests plus fourteen of various ages in red cassocks and white surplices). The most precise processions and reverencing of the altar I have seen in years. Their torches are very interesting: a sort of candle-in-a-lantern hanging from a pole held at an angle; the processional cross is also held at an angle. This Sunday was Children's Sunday, and even the children reading the lessons and taking up the offering were precise.

The music, on the other hand, is ecletic. The prayers are chanted, while the hymns, accompanied by an organ, are more Baptist in style, or maybe Salvation Army – at least in terms of the content of the words. I heard the choirs practicing all afternoon for the Trinity Sunday celebration (their patronal festival) in two weeks; the bishop has asked that I be back in Port-au-Prince for the celebration, so I will hear them at that time (officially, that is).

There is no altar rail. Instead, at communion there are four standing stations. The chalices are divided - half wine, half wafers – and the priest or Eucharistic Minister (I was in Sr. Marie Margaret’s line) dips the wafer in the wine and sticks it right in your mouth. I gather that this is the older way of receiving communion by intinction (that is, if you do not drink directly from the chalice) and that this is the usual way it is done in Haiti.

One thing I liked and found interesting was that they did the announcements at the end, rather than in the middle, following the blessing but before the final hymn and dismissal. It made for a nice flow of the service. The whole thing was rather longer than I am used to: an hour and a half through to the blessing, then another twenty minutes including the announcements, hymn, and dismissal. And while my attention did wander a bit as I was trying to focus on a sermon in Creole (he did break into French here and there, mercifully for me), the service never dragged, and it did not seem unreasonably long. And this was just a regular Sunday! I look forward to Trinity Sunday: it will be quite a worship experience.


  1. AnonymousMay 25, 2009

    does that mean that ALL TEC churches do notices at the half way point. It's always driven me crazy. I assumed I was just unlucky in choosing churches that did that.

    Though yesterday, I heard anounced done at the start right after 'grace and peace to you' which was also far from desirable.

    thanks for blogging. It's good to hear what it's like.

  2. Finding a good place to do the announcements is such a challenge. My home parish does them after the post-communion praise hymn and before the final hymn and dismissal, which works OK. Given our enthusiastic embrace of the Peace, I think it would work well, too, to do them at the end of the peace and before the offertory - it's so hard to get people to settle back down from the peace, I think a transition point would work in our church. In churches where the peace is more muted, though, I can see how the announcements would be disruptive. We had one priest that tried to skip the announcements entirely, arguing they were all written in the bulletin -- but then no one showed up for meetings or other church activities, and we kept hearing, "oh, I didn't know about it." Ah, well.

  3. Hi Sarah,
    Just trying to show Sr. Brigid how to post a comment.

  4. THis is the real Brigid, that was Sr. Grace, trying to see if she could get through.. It seems as if I may have forgotten the dot... lets see!

  5. AnonymousMay 26, 2009

    The rest of the Delaney clan just got back from D.C. for a cousin's wedding, and while they were there, they went to a cathedral for Mass. It was in Latin. I asked the kids how it was, and they said it was the longest most boring service they'd ever been to in their lives. I guess Mass can be boring for a child, but put it in another language, well, apparently that is just mean. :) So are you picking up any new language skills??
    xoxo l.