Set right in the middle of Jamestown, almost equal walking distance from the downtown harbor or Dutch Harbor on the western side of the island sits St. Matthews. In truth, I have never walked from Dutch Harbor, and a bike might be recommended if one is available. The walk up from the main harbor in Jamestown is shaded and not too taxing. No matter how you get to St. Matthews there are certain things that I found striking right from coming upon the parish.
First is the simplicity of the building more reminiscent of a Puritan house of worship than the traditional Episcopal churches. The lack of numerous stain glass windows or plaques praising benefactors from long ago give the church an accessibility I found quite beautiful. The ceiling soars with pine boards, not gothic arches. The stained glass behind the altar is lovely but extremely simple. Perhaps most breathtaking is after you take communion, you will turn to walk down the aisle and be greeted by this very large palladium window of clear glass. On the Sunday I was there the sun with bright and filtering through the trees outside the window. This window created for me a sense of being part of the world and the community looking out at God’s creation and allowing someone to look in or for that matter join in!
It is hard to say much about the congregation or the Pastor. I attended St. Matthew’s on the Sunday after July 4th, and the number of attendees was understandably small. The Reverand Lloyd who is the Priest for St. Matthew’s was on vacation as well. But those who did attend were of all ages, and when I found myself too far for handshakes during the peace, an usher made a point of seeking me out as did a member of the congregation who waved with enthusiasm. There was not a second when I didn’t feel entirely at home and welcomed.
A couple of worship observations; I guess that this is a pretty “low” church, didn’t see a lot of people crossing themselves and the prayer books are blue, and the hymnals are red! I don’t know why this struck me, but it is just the opposite of what I am used to.
For those moored in Dutch Harbor, the after church adventure is when a bicycle seems like a good idea because all the after church suggestions are at the other end of Narragansett Ave. The number one spot for a post-church breakfast has to be A Slice of Heaven, 32 Narragansett Ave. You will no doubt have to wait, but nobody seems to care. This Jamestown institution is a favorite meeting place, and the food is outstanding. It is an excellent place for good coffee, decadent pastries and breakfast food that is entirely satisfying. A Slice of Heaven also serves lunch.
Another institution of the very informal but reliable type is Spinnaker’s Café. A great selection of sandwiches and an extensive choice of ice cream flavors make this a favorite at any time. Spinnaker’s opens at 8:00 AM daily and is not to be missed at 3 Ferry Wharf. I must confess that I spend time in Jamestown every summer and I never miss any of the above choices. In fact, I have been known to visit Spinnaker’s and A Slice of Heaven daily.
A lot of famous people have worshiped at Trinity from George Washington to the Vanderbilt family. Many sailors have used Trinity’s steeple to navigate by, and its presence in downtown Newport is powerful. In many ways, Trinity is an excellent example of the old Episcopal church full of well-bred and well-born WASPS and the new church, full of diversity and openness, trapped in a very puritan building.
Trinity will surprise first-time attendees because of its interior. Very similar to the Congregational or puritan church of old, Trinity’s pulpit is dead center in the central aisle rising way above the congregation, in fact, blocking the alter from many in the quaint “stall” like pews which each family occupies and newcomers struggle with opening and closing. Fortunately, ushers are extremely helpful at communion time. The congregation takes the slogan the Episcopal Church welcomes you, sincerely and once you are on their email list, you will want to figure Newport into as many sail plans as you can. I was there once, and before I knew it, I was receiving their email, receiving all sorts of welcomes from the assistant rector and being delighted to learn that Pokémon Go was welcome on the grounds. Trinity is indeed an inclusive parish, of historical significance and well worth a Sunday morning stop.
Sail into the harbor, hail Old Port Marine, pull a mooring and you are all set, the church is an easy walk from where the launch drops you off. Of particular note is the church’s Mass on the Grass which is held outside on the first Sunday of July August and September. An excellent idea that will not deter you from visiting the church – there are always tours after every service and well worth the time.
Since the gilded age, Newport has been a vacation mecca, but long before the mansions of the Astors and the Vanderbilts, Newport was an important port. Founded in 1639 it was and remains one of the most significant natural harbors on the East Coast. There is no shortage of things to see here. Just the stroll to Trinity is packed with narrow streets and pre-colonial buildings. Not surprisingly there is a large number of restaurants to choose from for brunch, lunch or dinner. All the restaurants along the harbor are satisfactory if not exceptional, but be warned Newport gets very crowded in July and August, and that is true of the restaurants as well. If you have time and want to get away from the crowded colonial part of town walk up to 176 Bellevue to Annies’. This small restaurant has good food in a diner type of setting. Annie’s is on the same block as the International Tennis Hall of Fame, which boast a tennis museum. After brunch, if you are feeling very energetic and you don’t need to cast-off, you can walk down Bellevue to the famous mansions of Newport.