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Category: Communion Eucharist

Going to Church for the First Time


We wandered to the imposing door as we watched the couple in front of us get met at the door. I turn to Ruth and whisper “he’s turning them away”. After a brief interaction they are granted entry. We tentatively approach the elderly guardian at the portal. 

In uncertain French Ruth boldly states “We are here for the mass”. 
“Are you sure?  Lots of people say that they are here for the mass but get up after ten minutes and wander around” replies the keeper of the door.

We nervously exchange glances and search for words in an unfamiliar lexicon. “Yes, we’re definitely here for the mass”. 

“Well if you have problems just go to the back”. 

“Ok”. 

We enter the darkened medieval nave and find a hard and narrow pew on which to place our posteriors. The gate keeper says ‘the back’ so how far are we allowed to approach the holy of holies?  Half way seems appropriate. There is no indication of what may happen next.  No card. No screen. Ruth texts me a link to some wording in a strange and foreign tongue. A bell chimes. An organ booms. I look at the strange words. I wonder how I got here. Perhaps the sentry was right. There’s nothing for me here.

This morning we went to church at The Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus in Carcassonne. As a priest it was a fascinating look into how daunting it is to go to church for the first time. We have only been learning French for a couple of years so don’t have the language to understand what is going on. At the door we were met with questions we didn’t quite understand at an imposing doorway about whether we were worthy of entrance.  There was nothing to indicate what would happen during the service. Fortunately we know the shape of the liturgy and how to find rudimentary wording online.

It was a lovely service and I think I understood about a third of the sermon and my theological French is improving vastly.  But I’m a priest and I found it daunting to gain access to the building, much less the worship.  Medieval Carcassonne is a phenomenally touristy place but there must be ways to engage occasional visitors with the worship of the church. 

Much to ponder about how we invite people into the presence of God.

Ready – Advent, Day 7

Advent 7 - Ready

The fifth day of the Advent Photography Challenge is Ready.  Sadly as this is Sunday and I’ve been busy vicaring, this is a shot taken with my phone two minutes before I started to lead the Communion Meal at Holy Nativity.  This of course serves as a reminder that I am supposed to be blogging about the communion meal at Holy Nativity…

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Equals at God’s Table

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There is something wonderful about the way George Guiver CR embodies his vocation as a monk in a way that enables him to speak so freely about the nature of The Church TM. I’m currently reading his new book Vision upon Vision: Processes of Change and Renewal in Christian Worship. I was so struck by this passage that I typed it out on my phone!

God was not to be defined first in abstract terms, but by what happens in the basilica as the Eucharist is celebrated by the gathered believers… People can be puzzled by talk of the Eucharist making the church manifest, but one way in which this is clearly true is the fact that all people gathered – from presiding clergy to rulers and magistrates, shopkeepers and urban poor – are equally prophets, priests and kings, and their relationship is one of communion, in the scriptures, in the kiss of peace, and in sharing the Supper of The Lord. The Christian liturgy is utterly egalitarian: we are all equal in the sight of God. Toffs rub shoulders with vagrants….

In subsequent history the equality of all was often violated when ruling elites came to treat the church as their possession: those creepy English village churches in the grounds of mansions, rebuilt in elegant taste and run by local gentry, are one example of this. But there has always been a gospel law by which one day they would be found wanting…

The drama of the liturgy, then, needs to be performed in such a way that it corresponds to the nature of God and is an icon of God. This way already exists, and our part is to uncover it.

This is the unease I feel as an Anglican each time I am introduced to a colleague with such qualifying phrases as “of course his father was dean at…” There was of course the time I was genuinely told that “they are one of the ‘big families’ in the Church of England nationally”. I just can’t square these concepts with the table we gather around or the Jesus movement we have signed up to.

[youtube http://youtu.be/mURhNIjc-Kw]

Enchantment in Worship

I’m spending a day locked in a retreat house reading for the research I’m doing into liturgy and culture. A decade ago Keith F Pecklers SJ gave a call to greater liturgical formation for the ‘future of Christianity’ as he looked at worshipping in a postmodern world.

Liturgy in the postmodern world must aim for enchantment, not entertainment… If presiders are to be effective instruments in the enchantment of their congregations gathered together in holy assembly, the churches will need to recognise the fact that presiding is a craft to be learnt; it does not come with the grace of ordination. (p199 Worship)

I wonder what delights I will discover at the ‘Worship Transforming Communities’ conference next week. I’m looking forward to continuing the discussions I’ve been having with colleagues about liturgical formation. #worship2013