Each year that I attend the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio, I make it a point to worship at a beautiful parish church called Christ Church Anglican.
I first learned of this parish and visited it in 2010. I just fell in love with the place!
I went back in 2011, and blogged about it here.
I was not able to make it to Columbus in 2012, so I was really excited to get back this year. This time, I made it a point to pay attention and study what it is, exactly, that makes me love the place so much. Here are my findings, such as they are.
1. They remembered me and missed me. This is not too uncommon at churches of any stripe, so perhaps not a discriminator between this parish and any other. But it made me feel good when Fr. Wale Fafiade greeted me warmly by name after the service, and told me that he had been crestfallen the Sunday of Arnold weekend in 2012 to look out over the congregation and not see me there.
2. The beautiful organ playing. My wife and I love to hear a church organ well played, and the Prelude, Communion, and Postlude organ pieces were all beautiful!
3. The excellent choir. If I am not mistaken, the Christ Church Anglican choir has picked up a strong new soprano since last I heard them. In any case, though, they led the congregation very well in all the hymns and executed a fine rendition of When I Survey the Wondrous Cross for the Offertory Anthem. The choir consisted of 6 female voices and 2 male voices on this day.
4. The excellent hymns. Of course, being a gloomy, Eeyore-style Anglican, there is much in the way of Lenten hymns from The Hymnal 1940 to thrill me. The Recessional Hymn, The Glory of These Forty Days, is one of my favourites.
5. Straight 1928 BCP, no funny stuff! Even though my home parish uses the Anglican Missal, which has much in common with the 1928 BCP, it is just not the same! There is something about coming back to the 1928 BCP, in which even the page numbers of my favourite prayers are precious to me. I don't want to turn to Page 264 to read a prayer that should be found on Page 80, as God and Thomas Cranmer intended! Okay, I'm joking. Sort of. But it is a relief to know that all the rubrics will be followed, with no innovations, omissions, or additions. Call me OCD if you will, but that is what I like. It makes church for me (what T. S. Eliot would call) a still point, rather than yet another source of chaos added on top of my already too chaotic week.
6. The Litany in Lent. I don't know when I last had the privilege of praying The Litany from the 1928 BCP in a public worship service. Oh, wait, yes I do: it was Sunday, March 6, 2011. I am thankful that Christ Church Anglican includes The Litany in its Lenten services. It's prayers are exquisite. I like them so much, that I once tried to set some of them to music:
7. The reading of the Decalogue. Yes, all ten commandments, with the appropriate (sung) responses. Beautifully done.
8. The fellowship of kindred minds. Wow. I stayed around talking with several parishioners after the Holy Communion service. I connected with them on so many levels. You know something supernatural is going on when, after 20 minutes of conversation, you feel as if you have always known a person! One couple I was talking with knew all of the works of Jean Shepherd, and the gentleman had (as I had!) listened to Shep back in the 1970s on WOR radio from New York. The lady quoted, without missing a beat, one of Shepherd's longer book titles: Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters. I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine that conversation having occurred at my home church.
Another parishioner, a choir member in fact, turned out to be a fine artist whose Opening I had attended just the evening before at the Sharon Weiss Gallery. It was a sort of Twilight Zone moment when I realized that the choir member whose singing I had admired only 30 minutes earlier was the same woman whose art I had admired 18 hours earlier!
All in all, a most blessed experience. I am going to try to take another trip to Columbus (with my wife this time!) to visit and worship at Christ Church Anglican.