Monday, 27 May 2013

The perils of Church Tourism

We took the chance yesterday to go to Church away from home and to "pew dwell" together.  I nearly wished we hadn't.  On the good side, the pews we visited were architecturally stunning and medieval and the sermon was good (if nothing much to do with the Trinity which had evidently be covered the week before).  The liturgy was well done, normal 1982.  Sadly, the visiting choir were not quite as good as I think they thought they were (which may explain why they are the "former choir of St X's RC church" - musical egos not being pandered to by the clergy perhaps?).  They were fine on the modern hymns (3 out of 4) which were done with the piano and their anthem was fairly nicely executed, but they were desperate at the Gloria and the Sanctus/Benedictus (as, it must be said, were the congregation) and their rendition of the Introit hymn "Holy, Holy Holy" by Bishop Heber was dire.  They obviously ain't used to singing classical hymnody (which IMHO Bernadette Farrell isn't) and were utterly overwhelmed by the pipe organ.  Which brings me to that painful subject.  It really wasn't so much the organ supporting the choir and congregational worship as "The Organist Entertains".  Fairground style.   Not good with hymns, choirs and congregations.  And the Postlude was just showing off. Loudly. The choice of a particularly gaudy French piece wasn't to my taste for a start. I didn't applaud afterwards.  I don't really believe in giving some folks delusions of adequacy.

I had rather hoped the post match service might have made up for it, as this particular church is a serious tourist magnet and they should be pretty slick at welcome you would think.  Nope.  The priest was - but then again he's known me for 20 years and him saying hello was no surprise.  Congregational welcome - nil. Coffee - utterly disgusting, the worst church coffee I've had in years.  The previous Sunday in Cheam was a much better experience all round, even if I struggled with the heaps of noisy kids in an Aspie sort of way. One up to the C of E I regret to say.

The Aspie bit brings me to the worst bit of the whole service.  The intercessions. Too long for a start, with too much in them. Mate, God knows what's going on, he doesn't need your take on "What the Papers Say". But the utter disorganisation of the petitions was a nightmare.  I gave up by the 2nd section.  I also nearly blew a fuse when prayers were offered for the "mentally ill and those with autism".  I have Aspergers, I'm on the Autistic Spectrum and I am not mentally ill.  And I get steamed up when some idiot in a tweed jacket suggests otherwise in intercessions.  Maybe that wasn't the intention but you would think that some thought might have been given during training of intercessors to phrasing things in a way that doesn't gratuitously offend visitors because you have no idea what's going on in the lives of the visiting tourist and this is a church that gets a lot of those thanks to Dan Brown.

Sorry to be so critical of my fellow Christians but sometimes you gotta let off steam and sometimes unless stuff gets said places just poddle on with delusions of adequacy.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Aldersgate experiences.


Statue of John Wesley, Melbourne, Australia.

Today is Aldersgate Day.  Eh?? Why commemorate a Tube Station?  Try a conversion experience: 
"Aldersgate Day is a holiday celebrated by Methodists on 24 May to commemorate the day in 1738 when John Wesley 'experienced confirmation of his salvation by the grace of God.' in a meeting room in Aldersgate Street, London.
According to his journal, Wesley found that his enthusiastic gospel message had been rejected by his Anglican brothers. Heavy-hearted, he went to an evening society meeting on Aldersgate Street "very unwillingly." It was there, while someone was reading from Martin Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, that he felt that his heart was "strangely warmed." He describes it as: I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
 In the United Kingdom, Wesley's Aldersgate experience is celebrated on the Sunday preceding 24 May if that day is not a Sunday and the occasion is referred to as Aldersgate Sunday."  Thanks Wikipedia for reminding me.
Wesley's "conversion", his experience of "sola gratia" was to be of deep significance for the mission of the Church, both in the UK and abroad.  Sadly, Wesley's dynamic revivalism could not be contained within the Anglican Ecclessiolgy of the day.  Ages ago (well, the 1920-30's) Bishop Henson of durham lamented that  the Methodists could have been contained within the C of E in the same way the Jesuits had been held within the Roman Catholic fold.  Today they might have earned themselves a Personal Ordinariate!  Luckily, Anglicanism has learned from its errors and failings and has managed to contain both Charismatic Renewal and the Alpha Course within its ranks in the last half century.

Methodism has made and continues to make significant contributions to the life of the World wide Church.  I was lucky enough to be taught at University by 2 very fine Methodist scholars - the evangelical New Testament scholar Howard Marshall (known irreverently as "Sooty" on account of his diminutive stature behind a lectern but one of the best lecturers I ever had.) and the rather more sacramentalist Peter Stephens who actually managed to interest us in his pet subject of Zwingli.  The Anglican Church hasn't always been good to Methodists - witness the failure of the unity Scheme in the 1970's in England which so infuriated Archbishop Michael Ramsey.

Remembering their contribution and being thankful for it moves me contemplate their Covenant Prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

Yes indeed. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Some local wanderings.

File:Dalmeny Kirk.jpg

Dalmeny Kirk, South Queensferry.

Having moved ourselves up to the Ferry in the winter and having been working, we haven't had (or made) much time to explore our local area.  So this afternoon, we took ourselves up the road to have a wee peek at Dalmeny Kirk.   ( ).  Of course it was shut, but it certainly looks as if it is interesting and historic.  From thence, we ducked under the Rail Bridge so Rachel could run amok with her camera and then headed for a garden centre where we scoffed scones, bought lawn feed/weedkiller mix and noticed a chance to go clay pigeon shooting - an activity I've always fancied trying.  Watch this space to see what happens!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Oh to be in England!

File:Flag of England.svg

It was off to Englandshire last week.  Mon-Fri was spent in Cumbria, taking one of our service users away for a break to Centre Parcs.  Quite good, other than the joys of hay fever and a twice daily dose of Benadryl to keep it at bay.  Then it was a drive back to Embra, before a haircut and scooting down to Waverly for the 5 o'clock to King's Cross.  1st class was quite good - with the free food and drink (OK re-heated aeroplane style but acceptable enough) although the irritation factor rose as the journey wore on, due to being plonked next to the staff base where the staff chattered loudly despite it being next to the Quiet Carriage.  More testing was the smell of wine from my next door neighbour's free drink.  She only had 2 glasses but they were there for a couple of hours and the smell drove me nuts, especially with the temptation to order a free drink.  Still, we resisted and stayed sober!

The reason for the journey south was to go to Rachel's niece's wedding in darkest Surrey.  Which was pleasant enough, although the male choir members were robed in kit that made them look like polyester Red Friars (Trinitarians to the uninitiated).  The do afterwards was in a pub owned by the former Stig, so that added a pleasant twist to the buffet!

Because we were lodging with the Sister in law, we trundled off to the local parish church in Cheam on Sunday morning.  High Mass, westward facing but no incense.  Good sermon, positively friendly greeting from the regular pew dwellers. It was packed with rather noisy kids (it's that time of year when the families drag the brats along to ensure they get the necessary ticks to improve their hopes of getting into the Church school), but I can live with that.  At least they have kids in the Church!

Then it was back to Scotland and 2 weeks of annual leave!  Long lies beckon!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Have Dog-Collar, will travel

It's that time of year again when those of us whose ministry is non-stipendiary and who are willing to blip about the countryside with our cassock-albs disappear of our usual local ecclesiastical hangouts and hit the road to cover clergy summer holidays.  Both a joy and a pest as I like being of service, but I miss the familiar people and occasionally wonder "Who the 'eck designed this liturgy?"

This year I've been a wandering early: I've already done the last Sunday of the Vacancy at St Cuthbert's Colinton .  My next jaunt is up to St Fillan's Fairmilehead on Sunday  and I am booked to cover Gullane and North Berwick in June, with a possible pop-up at Eyemouth TBA.

I actually enjoy this jaunting about and seeing something of the diversity of the Church.  It may be my last bit of wandering for a while as St Mike's is going into vacancy as of August (the "new" Rector is going off to be chaplain to a Independent school in Surrey founded in the dim and distant past by the very Protestant Bishop Ridley of London).  So I'll enjoy it while I can.