Saturday, April 7, 2012

Return Visit to St. Gabriel's Anglican Church, Springdale, Arkansas

It was a year ago when my family and I made our first visit to St. Gabriel's Anglican Church in Springdale, Arkansas.  Upon re-reading that blog entry, I realize that many of the praises I had intended to heap upon the parish in this entry had already been mentioned in that former one.  That is a good thing, I think.  It means that the wonderful things I noticed last April were not some fluke, but the regular practice of the parish.  (For a fun little game, compare the 2nd photo below to the similar photo last year, and see if you can spot one major difference!)

In his fabulous book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton once described a "double spiritual need" common to men:
This at least seems to me the main problem for philosophers, and is in a manner the main problem of this book. How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it?  How can this queer cosmic town, with its many-legged citizens, with its monstrous and ancient lamps, how can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honour of being our own town?  
I blog on it at length in this entry. Chesterton's purpose in Orthodoxy is to show how the Christian faith meets "this double spiritual need, the need for that mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar which Christendom has rightly named romance." I find that visiting St. Gabriel's Anglican Church for a second time also fulfills this double need for me, because it is on one hand an adventure to visit a parish church other than my own, but at the same time it is so familiar as to fulfill that need for feeling "at home" which Chesterton describes above.

This year, our visit fell on Palm Sunday, and so we had the additional pleasure of participating in the distribution of the palms and the Processional.

The weather was perfect for this, and it was easy to imagine oneself in the crowd on that original Palm Sunday, shouting "Hosanna!" and cutting down branches and "strawing them in the way". But as it always happens, we don't get to be comfortable in "Palm Sunday" mode for too long. Fr. John Slavin's sermon challenged us to think about what made the difference between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. What can account for the horrible change from "Hosanna!" to "Crucify him!" in just a few short days.

Fr. John pointed out that gossip and slander, and the sowing of the seed of discord by evil men account in part for the change. There was great activity over those few days by Jesus' political enemies, by those who had always hated him and been jealous of him. But the other thing that must have certainly happened was that many of those who had been spreading their garments in the path of the Messiah on Sunday decided, for whatever reasons, to keep quiet later that week. It certainly seems possible that the "Hosanna!" party could have shouted down the crucifixion party, but they did not.

Fr. John went on to point out that the world is hostile to Jesus Christ today, just as it was then. And he left us this challenge: "When you go out into the world, will you keep silent when Christianity is slandered?  If so, you have sided with Barabbas." It is a chilling thought.

The music was very appropriate for the season, and one of my favourite hymns, #71, Ah, Holy Jesus, was sung. All the readings were read in full, including the Old Testament Lesson and the Psalm, which I greatly appreciate. Some parishes neglect to read these, which I think is a great shame, particularly since they often reinforce and deepen the New Testament readings.

Incense was used, which is another thing I greatly appreciate. I seem to sense, sometimes, the rise of the "anti incense" party, and so I feel that I should be vocally thankful whenever a parish chooses to use incense in its worship.

As happened last year, we providentially arrived on a Sunday in which a potluck meal was served after the Holy Communion service, and so we were greatly blessed to share in food and conversation with many members of the parish. This led to us receiving a great suggestion from Deacon Ed Knox, regarding an art museum just to the north, in Bentonville. It is called Crystal Bridges, and will be the subject of an upcoming blog.