WORSHIP IN ENGLAND-SUMMER 2014
London is full of churches; most of them are of the Church of England brand. The really famous two are Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. I have been to those great churches many times in past visits. I went to neither on this trip. Ann stopped into St. Paul’s briefly.
On Sunday, June 22, 2014 we went to the church nearest our flat in Chelsea. St. Andrews is a fine 19th century church with a tall pointed steeple and a cross on top. We went in and found the rector greeting us inside the door. He was a short dark haired nice looking fellow wearing shirt tie and dark suit and no clerical collar. I glanced at where the altar should be and saw only a plain table, no cross or candlesticks. We were handed a Bible and a song sheet. No hymnal or Book of Common Prayer in sight. Uh Oh, I thought.
A very tall pleasant chap led us to a pew near the front so I could hear well. We sang from the song sheets accompanied by a guitar and digital organ. The hymns were catch tunes and simple modern verses. Actually, I think some of those hymns might be more attractive to unchurched people visiting Episcopal Churches. Prayers were said, Bible readings were offered and we were invited to follow along in our Bibles. The preacher gave a long quite eloquent sermon on a passage from Isaiah. He analyzed it clearly, but went on and on for 40 minutes. He said we should take the Bible literally. Ann approached him after the service and asked if she should go home and kill her neighbor because he didn’t go to church that Sunday? He blushed and murmured something about having to view the Old Testament teachings through the eyes of Jesus teaching.
There was Eucharist, only the songs, Bible reading and sermon and then some more prayers by the recto reiterating themes from his sermon. The final hymn was played on the pipe organ and it was Oh God Our Help in Ages Past.
In reading the literature around the church we found that St. Andrews was founded as an evangelical Church of England parish and has held firm to that “low church” tradition to this very day. In fact a big gift of money came from a wealthy family to St. Andrews specifically to uphold the evangelical tradition.
There were less than a hundred people in church and lots of children. There is a day nursery school that uses the building during the week.
I realized I had never been to such a church in my whole life. It certainly was not I wanted or liked for worship. We were told by a neighboring cleric that the Rector of St. Andrews is very conservative in religion and politics.
This same week we were in England, the Synod voted to allow women priests to be consecrated Bishops. I suspect our St. Andrews rector was against that. In any case his wife is quite beautiful.
On Sunday, June 29, 2014, we got in a cab and went to All Saints, Margaret Street for High Mass at 11:00 AM. We went from low, Low Church to the highest of high church in one week. I did want Ann to see what real, high class, high mass looked like. It was the feat day of SS Peter and Paul. The altar was vested in red. The sacred ministers had on a luscious red velvet and gold chasuble, dalmatic and tunicle.
The choir and altar party emerged from a right hand side entrance amidst a cloud of gray smoke that smothered the church and rose to highest levels of the ceiling. Magnificent. The choir went to their stalls, six candle bearers genuflected in absolute perfection and the sacred ministers did the same.
The choir of men and women were a double quartet, all paid professionals was brilliant. The Kyrie and Gloria were sung by the choir in Latin. Psalm 87 also sung by the choir was Tone VII flat. (I know all this because we were provided with a fully printed program with announcements.)
The rector Alan Moses gave the sermon. It was a Biblical analysis ending that we all need to bring people into the life of the church, without giving one concrete suggestion on how to do this.
The Peace was passed in a very sedate way to those nearest. No dashing about the church hysterically visiting one and all.
The Anthem was by Mendelsohn sung by the choir who also sang again in Latin the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. The entire mass was moving, with dignity, formality and in the spirit of holiness.
After the service there was refreshments in the courtyard. I congratulated the thurifer on his splendid smoke. He said, “They beat you if you make a mistake,”
Ann, the ex-Mormon said, “Robert, if we lived in London, this where we would go to church.”
The church is highly decorated from floor to ceiling; all the walls depict saints and angels in bold colors, lots of gold and silver coloration. It is truly a holy place where Christian worship is foremost. In the basement of the church there is a full bar with boor and liquors available at some cost. A full hot luncheon is served also.
On Sunday, July 6, 2012
We took the #14 bus from Chelsea to Piccadilly to attend the liturgy there. Twenty years ago I made an exchange with Donald Reeves who came to SF and I moved into the rectory/apartment of St. James’s. We have been there many times since.
The building is Christopher Wren structure with tall plain glass windows, a balcony, high pulpit and a gold radiance behind the altar. The space is gracious and light.
Our good friend Hugh Valentine was the preacher that Sunday. The church was pretty near full as it attracts many tourists as well as a substantial membership. No choir, but a strong soprano led us inn the mass music and sang a beautiful Offertory solo. Right after the entrance procession the celebrant came down the aisle and greeted newcomers and visitors and asked where we were from, New York, Sydney, San Francisco and on and on. The altar and celebrant are just one single step higher than the congregation giving a sense of "we are all in this together. "The readings and sermon were presented from a reading desk at floor level in front of the altar.
The celebrant was a woman with a strong voice. Hugh gave a fine sermon suggesting there was no call for righteous indignation because some ranking politicians were accused of harassment and molestation of women and children. Their cases deserved too be heard first.
The most unusual part of the liturgy is that the entire congregation gathers around the altar as the blessing of the bread and wine takes place. The elements are passed to all presents round and round until all have received the sacraments. The then went to take their seats.
Ann and I had tickets to the Globe Theater’s production of Antony and Cleopatra so we left right after communion missing the final prayers and announcements.
The service at St. James’s has the same feeling as at Trinity while I was rector. It is serious, dignified with a light touch, not being pretentious. (305)
Sunday, July 13, 2013
St. Mary’s Bolton Gardens
This lovely church is set in Bolton Gardens surrounded by a well kept private garden, all green and flowery. The church seats three hundred, the choir and organ are at the back and in the loft. The altar is moved forward and raised leaving the area in the apse open as a meditation space. There are lovely old windows and one very modern hideous one, blood red with stick figures, quite jarring. The church was bombed and restored with some of the old stained glass still surviving. The Sunday we attended was the final Sunday of the rector’s ten-year tenure. She was the celebrant and preacher. She was moving too the country to tend three small churches. The church was full of well-wishers. A professional choir was hired to render the Gloria in Excelsis and Psalm settings by Vivaldi, the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei were by Mozart, the communion anthem was by Bruckner.
We did manage too hear the worst sermon we had ever heard. She told us the life’s basic concerns were Who are? Where are we going and What is our purpose in Life? She did not amplify and concluded. Two sopranos sang/chanted a gorgeous piece by Hildegard of Bingem.
There was a champagne reception so crowded that we did not participate. The Sr. Warden Leo Fraser-Mackensie told us he knew Andrew Walmesley who came up through that parish. Leo wanted us to say hello to Andrew, but so far I have not been able to locate him. I am sure he lives in the Bay Area.
This was an unusual Sunday in the life of the parish and rector. The service was lovely and enriching and devotional, in spite of the sermon. At the end of the service the rector walked out of the church looking straight ahead, no applause for the congregation. The whole service lacked warmth and emotion. Maybe just the English way or maybe they were all glad she was leaving.
On Sunday, July 20, 2014
We attended St. Luke’s Church in Chelsea the last Sunday we were in London. It was the first church built in the Gothic style in the 19th Century, a breakaway from the Georgian Churches so popular in the 17th Century. It boasts the highest church tower in all of London and the fact that Charles Dickens was married there in 1835.
The church is long and wide with the organ in the rear loft and the choir in the “choir.” There is a balcony and the whole place probably seats 800, about 200 were in church the Sunday we were there. The celebrant and preacher was the rector who presided adequately but not exactly with a cheerful mien. The volunteer choir was startlingly good. They were all music students from nearby colleges and sing each Sunday at 11 AM and again at Evensong. They certainly were the best all volunteer choir we have heard. They numbered about 20 men and women, all in their 20’s and 30s. What a gift they are to the worship of the parish.
At the end of the service the rector was friendly and affable. The church is set in the middle of the park, which the church seems to own.
July 27, 2024 – at sea on the Queen Mary2
We attended an interfaith service in the theater on that Sunday morning led by the Captain, piano accompanied by a crewmember. The Captain had us sing a hymn and then led us in several prayers and one quite touching about children. One of the officers read a lesson, then more prayers by the Captain. He announced another hymn and the pianist started playing. The Captain walked over and said, “Oh no that is the wrong tune.” The player showed him the music. The captain turned and faced us and asked if we knew the tune. Almost every one of the 200 people said, “yes.” He said, “Well, alright then go ahead.” I guess the Captain does not get over-ruled very often. There was no sermon, some prayers and then the Navy Hymn Eternal Father Strong to Save and that was it. There was a table in front of the stage with a cross on it and references to God and Jesus in the prayers. The Captain, whose name I cannot remember, greeted us at the door. It was an OK experience. (By the way there was a Roman Catholic Mass daily on board.)
We did enjoy the services and variety of liturgies and sermons. We did see the wide variety of Church of England interpretations of Anglican worship. I think of that as part of the Anglican genius.