The present building dates from 1879 and is in the late Early English Gothic style. It replaces an earlier church destroyed by fire in 1877. The steeple rises to the majestic height of 210 feet and is topped by a weathervane in the form of a fish, the early symbol for Christianity. The tower contains a clock and a ring of nine bells. The interior features beautiful stained glass, including an east window by the noted Victorian artisan Charles Eamer Kempe. The elaborately carved reredos is also by Kempe. A more detailed description of the interior can be found on their website.
Their many ministries are also listed on their website. Today's service gave an atypical view of the life of the church, as there were many different congregations represented.
Most of Saint John was ravaged by the disastrous fire of 1877, but the many grand Victorian structures that sprang up in its wake are all well preserved and offer a nostalgic view of city life in days gone by.
The Revd Dr. Ranall Ingalls, rector; the Revd Douglas MacNeil, rector of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception; the Revd Dr. John Crawford, minister of Grace Presbyterian Church.
What was the name of the service?Festal Evensong (Coronation Evensong, marking the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Her Majesty the Queen)
How full was the building?
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. A woman with a delightful smile and handshake greeted me and handed me an order of service. She did not question me at all, as there were many of us entering at once.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a little hard to sit on for 90 minutes, but I expect it would have been all right for 60.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
While not silent, it was reverential. Some were praying, some chatting. Those talking with their neighbours were doing so in low voices.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"O let the nations rejoice and be glad; for thou shalt judge the folk righteously, and govern the nations upon earth." (Psalm 67:4)
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Only the printed order of service that was handed to me.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, trumpet, flugel horn, trombone, tuba. The organ is an Allen digital instrument that replaced an older Casavant Frères instrument, the pipes of which are still in place.
Did anything distract you?
Plenty of flashy clothing, including some "fascinators" no one wears such things to church where I come from! People were dressed as they would be to attend an opera, the ballet or a play. It was interesting to note, yet another regional difference.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Definitely stiff-upper lip. As they were dressed to the nines, what other opinion could one possibly hold? The service followed the order of evensong that took place at the Queen's coronation. Of course, this in itself was enough to stiffen the most pliant upper lip.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The 50 voice choir was great, and the wonderful music was all very spiritually up-lifting. i.e., Handel, Charles Villiers Stanford, Vaughan Williams. The conductor was fabulous.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Sitting on that brutally hard pew for roughly 30 minutes longer than what I would personally prescribe.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A kind woman introduced herself and asked if this was my home church. A very pleasant conversation followed in which she told me a little bit about Trinity, which was her home church.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Crowded to the point where I chose not to enter the room.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – While not the type of service I am accustomed to, the music was fabulous! I felt very welcome, so yes, I would consider making this my home church if I lived in this city.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it did. It gave me cause to reflect on the life of service the Queen has lived and her love of God.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The wonderful music, the warmth with which I was greeted and the "fascinators."