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3237: Holy Trinity, Norfolk, Virginia, USA
Holy Trinity, Norfolk, VA
Mystery Worshipper: Roamin Catholic.
The church: Holy Trinity, Norfolk, Virginia, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Diocese of Richmond.
The building: The building dates from 1953 and is sandstone in appearance, sort of blockish, rectangular and tall. The interior is likewise rectangular, with a large stained glass window behind the rather small altar.
The church: The parish is near two large naval bases, and they have a special outreach to the military. They are also big on family. They support Life Teen, (quoting from their website) "an international Catholic youth ministry and catechesis program that seeks to lead teens closer to Christ." There is a nursery and a cry room, and they offer Children's Liturgy of the Word, with simplified (but approved) versions of the scriptural readings for the day. There are two Sunday masses in English plus the Saturday vigil mass, and one in Spanish, with a live streaming feed for those unable to attend. Weekday masses are celebrated Monday through Thursday, with a Spanish mass on Tuesday and the Rosary on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
The neighborhood: Norfolk is in southeastern Virginia at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. As such, the city has a long history as a strategic military and transportation point. The US Naval Station at Norfolk is the largest navy base in the world. The church is in a neighborhood at the end of a residential street.
The cast: The pastor, the Revd Dan Beeman. There were no deacons.
The date & time: September 10, 2017, 11.00am.

What was the name of the service?

How full was the building?
The large church was full, with many young parents standing at the back of the church attending to young children. Lots of children. The families appeared to be military (many uniforms).

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A greeter welcomed me but did not notice me as a visitor. When I first sat down, the person next to me handed me a well-designed pew card which had the order of mass.

Was your pew comfortable?

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was generally quiet. Five minutes before mass, the organist played a nice prelude. Then there were then three minutes of silence. A bell rang from the back and the whole church stood instantly.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
There were pew cards with the order of mass and the Ritual Song hymnal from GIA Publications Inc.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano, and a choir were present. They have a pipe organ but I could not discover anything about its provenance.

Did anything distract you?
The carpet under the pews needs to be refreshed or replaced.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It is a very formal church. The mass parts were sung in Latin (to a modern tune) and the priest celebrates the mass exactly as in the missal. But it was also very warm and did not feel too stuffy or mechanical.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – Father Beeman was one of the best preachers I have ever heard. The homily was excellent. I saw many people nodding along or tearing up as they heard it. At the end I asked, "Is he always that good?" and the person next to me said, "We're really blessed with Father."

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He preached about two martyrs of charity: St Maximilian and a Navy SEAL, who gave their lives as martyrs. He then tied it immediately to the gospel, where we are called to love heroically. It fit perfectly.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The homily was simply perfect. And the music was also excellent. Incense, a beautiful post-communion solo. One thing I've never seen: after communion, instead of sitting down, the priest went and knelt down before the tabernacle in silence for at least two or three minutes. Other than crying children, it was silent. And very meaningful.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The children are loud. There is a nursery and there are two cry rooms, but there were so many children, that took some getting used to. It was very cold in the church. The air conditioning blew on me the whole service. People must be used to it – almost everyone had a jacket on, even though it was very warm out.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It is worth noting that no one – NO ONE – left before mass was over. They waited in their pew, singing, until the closing hymn was completely over. But then they instantly began talking and exiting the church. I was handed a bulletin from an usher, but no one spoke to me. I prayed at a statue, lit a candle, and wandered. But no one said one word to me after mass.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none – but there were hundreds of people in the parish park outside after mass.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I appreciate good liturgy, good music and good preaching, but I'd want to see a bit more friendliness.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
The eucharist always does.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I still remember the homily, the music, and especially the many young military families.
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