14 December 2008

Ecumenical Experiments - Part 1

Last Sunday morning I went to a church service at St. James' Anglican in the city. St. James is the oldest church in Sydney, and they run the service in the old-school traditional style; the whole place was full of smoke from the incense canister thing, and there were candles and robes and a procession; the whole works. Although it's known as the heart of the city, I couldn't help but notice that, besides me and a few of the choristers, there wasn't anyone there under about 40 years of age. That's not necessarily a bad thing – every church has their own niche demographic that they serve.

The music was fantastic. The pipes for the organ were on both sides of the church, and stretched from the floor to the ceiling. It was obviously a well maintained organ and the organist really knew how to use it.

They did a sung Eucharist and everything. We were all given handouts with the liturgy and a melody line all written out. It was nice, but I think anyone who wasn't a trained musician (fortunately I am one) might find it difficult to engage with the service in any meaningful way. But it was nice to listen to.

The sermon was interesting. I've grown accustomed to having a scripture passage read out and fully explored in depth, to make sure the full meaning of a passage is understood. The pastor (Priest? Minister? Rector? Primate? I don't know) just took one phrase "Prepare ye the way of the Lord" and gave us his thoughts on how what this might look like in a modern context, since we're still waiting for Christ's return almost 2000 years later. It wasn't what I was used to, but at least it made sense and I could see where he was coming from.

Overall, it was a nice way to spend an hour and a half, but I just didn't come away from it feeling like I'd gained anything useful.

I don't want to be too negative. The old school traditions still mean a lot to some people, and if you can get your head inside all the pageantry and symbolism, there's some fantastic truth there. It's just not my thing, and it certainly made me appreciate my church a whole lot more.
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