|The 5th Avenue exterior of St. Thomas'|
In any event, our activity this week was visiting four churches Saturday morning on or near Fifth Avenue: St. Bart's Episcopal on Park Avenue, St. Patrick's Cathedral (Catholic), St. Thomas' (Anglican), and Fifth Avenue Presbyterian.
The architecture and feel of each was completely distinct. My favorite was St. Thomas' - it was very intimate, and we walked into the swelling of beautiful organ music and the smell of lilies and roses from what must have been wedding arrangements. The Presbyterian church felt astonishingly familiar, as somehow the Salt Lake Tabernacle and smaller Provo replica were built in near-identical architectural style (anyone know why this is?). St. Patrick's was the most crowded, with tourists filling the gothic chapels. At St. Bart's, however, we had the most interesting experience:
We timed our visit to coincide with the Morning Prayer service, but then thought better of it, as we did not want to be caught the whole morning in that first church. On our way out the door, we encountered the female pastor conducting the service, and she asked us to stay. As it would only be ten minutes, we determined we would after all.
We were glad of it: the service included beautiful verses and prayers. And did you know that it was the birthday of Martin Luther (the one with the 95 theses, not Dr. King also celebrated this weekend) yesterday? As the service closed and we again rejoined the pastor at the door, I asked what the significance to them was of the altar which formed the center piece of the chapel (and most churches). She was a bit surprised by the question and glazed over the holy center piece as merely being historical and the place where they prepared the eucharist.
She then asked to what church we belonged and whether we had altars and for what purpose we used them. My husband and I explained that our altars were based upon those used in Old Testament times when animals were sacrificed on altars to show the commitment of the faithful. Christ was the last blood sacrifice, the tomb acting as the altar (I often envision the Carl Bloch painting, pictured right). Our Sacrament, representing that sacrifice--the flesh and blood of Christ--is now placed upon our altars. We mentioned that our temples also have altars, but didn't go into depth of the parallel significance of them.
She seemed to remember that their altars represented something similar. It was a good reminder to me that I know but should not let familiarity lull me into forgetting what the altars of my faith represent, and that those things that are placed upon them share spiritual real estate with Christ's body and blood, broken for me such that I may keep the covenants I have made and return to the Father some day.
|doors to St. Bart's|
|gilded ceiling of St. Bart's|
|interior of St. Bart's - altar piece straight ahead (but the morning service was in a side chapel)|
|Hard to capture the beauty of the rose windows we saw|
|interior of St. Patrick's|
|holy water dispenser at St. Patrick's|
|baptismal font at St. Patrick's|
|The altarpiece of St. Thomas' (and the back of Lance's head)|
|Sorry - blurry picture of the rose window and organist at St. Thomas' below|
|anyone recognize this building?|
|hard to see, but it has an organ that looks similar to that in the Salt Lake Tabernacle|