Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Christ Church Anglican Revisited.

Last year, while making my annual pilgrimage to the Arnold Sports Festival, I discovered a really cool Anglican parish in Columbus, Ohio.  I blogged about it here.

This year, I was able to attend two Holy Communion services at Christ Church Anglican, one on Saturday evening, and the main one on Sunday morning. 

Several friends had asked me, after I posted last year's blog, what a "Contemporary 1928 BCP" service was.  I told them that I didn't know, but I now have the answer to that.

As walked up the sidewalk to the church door on Saturday afternoon, my heart was heavy.  I always try to invite my fellow bodybuilding fans to church, and nobody ever shows any interest.  It makes me sad that so few people in the world seem to truly love church.  I love it so much that it puzzles me how others cannot like it at all.  It seems a burden to them.  Perhaps that is because they are not Anglicans; since I have been Anglican, I love church so much that I would attend even if I ceased to believe in God.  So, anyway, I was a bit sad and lonely as I walked up to the church door.

As I opened the door, however, my heart was lifted straight up into heaven, by the sheer smell of the place.  I love a church that actually smells the way a church is supposed to smell!  Inside, I met Doug, the music minister for the contemporary service.  Then, once in my pew, I met Shaun.  In a breach of Anglican etiquette, Shaun and I chatted before the service started.  I found out that he was from a town in Michigan half an hour's drive from my home.  I also found that we had a mutual friend in Fr. Robert Kerr.

The music used throughout the service was very reminiscent of that used at my local AMiA parish, so was not really my cup of tea.  I commented afterwards that it was a bit like being at a Counting Crows concert.  But, of course, I love the Counting Crows, so it is all good.  Rather than be my usual Music Snob self, I humbled myself and entered into the singing with all my heart, an act of will which God immediately rewarded.  I felt my soul transported again into the presence of God.  The service was a full 1928 BCP Holy Communion liturgy, except that the language was modernized (which thing I abominate, as you can probably guess).  No "thee", "thou", or "thine".  No "vouchsafe".  And "people" instead of "men".  I stumbled badly at several points.  Any time, in fact, that I started to go from memory instead of reading the page.  I found this, frankly, to be very distracting.

I had a good talk with several parishioners and the priest afterwards, and I hope to attend this service again during the 2012 Arnold.

Sunday morning, I arrived at church early, hoping to capture some photographs of the building beyond what I'd taken last year.  Alas, I had left my camera battery in the charger back in my room.  So, no new pictures this year.

The 10:00 am was fairly well attended, considering that there had been an unexpected overnight snow in Columbus.  For the number of parishioners, and the size of the building, the singing was very strong, filling the worship space nicely.  Unfortunately, my own singing was not very good, as I was suffering the last phase of a head cold.  The hymns we sung were interesting.  All were from the Hymnal 1940, but I was not very familiar with most of them.  It made a nice change from singing the familiar ones over and over again.  There was also a very fine Anthem from the choir.

I always give "extra credit" to any parish at which the Passing of the Peace is omitted, and Christ Church got the full amount of the extra credit.

But the one segment of the service which touched me the most was a simple reading of two Collects from very near the back of the 1928 BCP.  They occur on pages 596 and 597, if memory serves.  They were said by the priest just after the Nicene Creed and just before the Sermon Hymn.  They were these:

For Joy in God's Creation.

O HEAVENLY Father, who hast filled the world with beauty; Open, we beseech thee, our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works; that rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness; for the sake of him by whom all things were made, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Those We Love.

ALMIGHTY God, we entrust all who are dear to us to thy never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come; knowing that thou art doing for them better things than we can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Each of these Collects was like a bullet of love straight through my heart.  Each spoke with incredible precision to a need I had at the moment.  It reminded me once again of the amazing wisdom that is contained in the Book of Common Prayer!  It also reaffirmed my long-standing belief that formal, structured liturgy is no impediment whatever to the Spirit of God.  The Holy Ghost found His target (my heart) with these two arrows!  The first Collect I needed to hear because I have been in a rut (which as an artist occasionally befalls me) of finding beauty only in one certain person I am painting, and not being able to see the beauty in "all thy works".  This prayer is one I've often used to help break out of such an aesthetic bondage.

The second prayer is one that I hardly remember having seen or prayed before, but again it was exactly what my heart needed.  For I have been fretting many months over some friends who are in a hard situation.  I have come to the end of my ability to help them, and have had to yield them over to God's care.  This has been very difficult for me.  But this Collect assures me that God is doing better things for them than I can even think of!  How great is that?

Oh, I almost forgot my other favourite part:  the General Confession.  As Prayer Book Anglicans, we often rush through the liturgy, as if speed were a prime virtue in worship.  Sunday was the slowest I have ever heard a congregation read through the General Confession (same with the Prayer of Thanksgiving on page 83)!  Normally, we cut through the Confession so quickly that phrases like "the burden of them is intolerable" might as well be "two eggs, over easy".  But by slowing down the cadence perhaps 30 to 40 percent, Christ Church Anglican gave me the blessing of feeling, evaluating, embracing, ratifying, and embodying every word and phrase in the Confession.  I cannot tell you how wonderful this felt to me.  I earnestly entreat any Anglican clergyman reading this blog entry to take this challenge:  Slow down the General Confession!  Read it so that it feels almost too slow.  Pause at every punctuation mark.  I have never seen this issue discussed, but it made a night-and-day difference to my worship that morning.

Just as last year, the service was concluded with a beautiful Organ Postlude, which made me wish my wife could have attended.  God willing, she will be there with me next March!


Prester Scott said...

I figure that there is so much penitential content in the 1928-based rites already (especially the Missal, when you add in the threefold "Domine, non sum dignus") that as long as a reasonable and reverent pace is maintained, people are either going to pay attention to what they're saying or they won't.

Anglican Beach Party said...

Thanks, Scott.

For me, at least, it is not a matter of paying attention. I am doing my best, but the Confession still whizzes by way to fast for me. So do some of the other prayers.


Tregonsee said...

Thanks for the explanation. I also had a "What!?!?!" response to "Contemporary 1928." The thought of Praise Music and 1928 combined is a bit beyond my imagination.

Castanea_d said...

Thank you for this beautiful essay.

The Collect “For those we love” is one that I say every day in my intercessory prayers. I am glad that you have encountered it. For what it is worth, both of the Collects that you mentioned survived into the 1979 BCP (p. 814 and 831, both in the section of “Prayers and Thanksgivings,” which contains a number of the fine old prayers that the modernists wanted to eliminate, but enough traditionalists wanted to keep that they did not entirely disappear from the book).

“Contemporary 1928” makes me think of the “New KJV” which appears in some Baptist churches – the KJV with the more obscure old words modernized. It can be pretty strange, and is much inferior to the RSV in my opinion (and even more inferior to the “Old” KJV, which is just fine as it is).

As you say, “Any time, in fact, that I started to go from memory instead of reading the page.  I found this, frankly, to be very distracting.”

Normally at our parish, being the organist, I do not attend the 7:45 am spoken service, but I did the other week because a not-quite-sober (at 7:00 am!!) street person wandered into Sunday Matins, which I lead. I sat with him through the Eucharist. He told me later that he is a confirmed member of this parish, having grown up here in the 1960's (and gone off to Vietnam with so many men of that generation, and come back not quite sane, and ended up in the 2000's living on the street, again like far too many of his brothers). He was trying his best to participate in the liturgy – he sang “New every morning is the love” at (Rite One) Matins with the rest of the very small gathering, for one thing, and said the Apostles' Creed and Lord's Prayer with confidence and from memory. But at the Eucharist, which was Rite II, he kept tripping up when the congregation was doing the “wrong” texts – such as the modernized Creed that begins “We believe...” and the line “and also with you,” which is so completely wrong. I joined him in the hearty rejoinder “and with thy spirit” at the appropriate times, along with “It is meet and right so to do.”

This old fellow, Burgess by name, needed the “old” church which was still there in his memories from fifty years ago. We all ought to be able to go through the Eucharist from memory, but they keep changing it in TEC. This is doing a disservice to people like old Burgess.

Anyway, thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

Anglican Beach Party said...

Thank you, Castanea_d. I am going to start using the "For those we love" Collect. It says what my heart is trying to say.

Thanks for sharing about Burgess. I agree with your conclusion!


Jill said...

The contemporary 1928 sounds precisely my cup of tea.

Enjoyed reading your account, Paul. Have a blessed Lenten season.

Anglican Beach Party said...

Thanks, Jill. Maybe you could get up there for a visit sometime?