26 February 2009

About Freaking Time

So I finally made it to a church service here in Madrid this week. For one reason or another (the one, more so than the other) it’s taken me six weeks to get there, but I finally got my act together. And it wouldn’t be Far From Home if I didn’t throw in a quirky, self-opinionated yet strangely compelling (strange being the operative morpheme) set of ecumenical observations every few weeks. Furthermore, it’s almost the end of February (!) and I’ve only posted once this month, which is well below quota, even for a day-deficient month like February. So here we go.

First up, I think I went to the wrong service. I was hoping to catch the service for families and young people, but I found myself at a traditional Church of England Eucharist. That was fine; I’m reasonably flexible in terms of worship style. But I was surprised to find myself caught unawares by the Book of Common Prayer.

Normally it’s all good; we used the Australian Book of Prayer at college chapel services all through my uni years, so not only am I familiar with it, I know most of the responses from memory. However the version we used back at St. John’s was the most recent version, updated into contemporary Australian English. The version at the church I visited hadn’t been updated since some time in the 1800s. All the words were different; I had to flip through the book and find the script, which was bit embarrassing. Fortunately no-one noticed. The Anglican tradition of hiding in the pews at the back still applies in Spain.

It was Transfiguration Sunday, and the priest gave a really interesting (well… I thought so) comparison between Transfiguration and Gethsemane. Obviously there were contrasts, but I was surprised by how many similarities there were also.

It was also the last Sunday before Lent starts, so the congregation threw an early pancake lunch ahead of Shrove Tuesday. While the preparation team got the lunch ready, we all stood around in the courtyard enjoying a glass of strawberry champagne (what?). One of the old couples of the church had bought in a crate of the stuff, thinking it would be nice to have a drink together before they all give it up for Lent (um…) so I drank my pre-lunch bubbly and stood in the sun, partly to warm up on a chilly day, and partly to keep away from the group of parishioners smoking on the other side of the courtyard. Spain hasn’t quite caught up with the whole “smoking is bad for you” bandwagon yet.

It was a pretty standard sort of fellowship lunch. Casseroles and rice; just the way it should be, with savoury pancakes thrown into the mix for the occasion. Most of the congregation were British or American ex-pats as opposed to Spanish nationals, so there wasn’t the feeling of having no idea what was about to happen that I’ve become accustomed to. The red wine for sale on a table off to the side was a little unexpected, but not unwelcome. I spent most of the meal chatting to the priest, who was really nice, and with a woman from New Zealand who wanted me to bring her a copy of the words to Waltzing Matilda. I’m not sure why.

Far From Home

Garry with 2 Rs
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