Sunday, 24 October 2010

Hosting the stranger.

We have a wee Ghanaian priest staying with us just now (well, he's shorter than I am, so wee is an accurate word!) and in the absence of other community members it fell to me to do the hosting this morning.  Andrew brought him to church and I took over socialising after Mass and fed him bacon rolls at lunchtime.  Poor soul, he's rather homesick, distinctly cold and a wee bit ill at ease having been shuffled around 3 churches on placement, with no set "home" for 3 months.  This has not been desperately well planned, as we only knew he was coming on Friday night and he knows who's coming to uplift him tomorrow but not where he's going to stay.  Which adds to the uncertainty, sense of dislocation and unease.  However, we chatted over lunch and he felt rather at home at St Michael's - the churchmanship being quite what he's used to!  Interestingly, he felt he could join in the liturgy here because a) we sang bits to Martin Shaw (which is almost Merbecke) and what they have in Ghana and b) the hymns were old favourite crowd pleasers!  We talked about the challenges music and hymns have made to mission and growth in Ghana.  The old UMCA style and A&M hymns have not really protected the Anglican Church in Ghana from the rise of Pentecostalism and worship that is more culturally and ethnically "African" - they are evidently moving on a bit on this, towards a more authentically Ghanaian liturgical style.  +Frank Weston of Zanzibar had the right idea all those years ago about growing an African Church in the African idiom and not importing Victorian Englishness wholesale.

What does that mean in Scotland?  Our liturgical style is pretty "Anglican".  We have our own distinctive Scottish liturgy (is that the same as distinctively Scottish?).  I suppose I tried for a degree of ethnic authenticity in Falkirk by increasing the use of the Roxburghe setting to Scottish folk tunes (and our default setting was James Macmillan - a Scot).  But I was always wary of descending into Scottish liturgical "kitsch" - metrical psalms, bagpipes at Mass and mitres with thistles on them (the Bishop as MacLeay's beer pump look!).  I'd argue that the Scots are a mongrel nation with a tradition of welcoming cultural variety and our worship ought to reflect that.  Wonder what anyone else thinks?

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