Saturday, July 26, 2008

St James Day

Yesterday was the start of our Patronal Festival at St James, King Street and I attended Choral Eucharist at 6.30pm in the evening. I thought as there was no sermon it would be over in time for me to catch the 8.10pm train and be home by 10pm but I did not account for the singing of the choir which while beautiful can be a bit long sometimes so I did not arrive home until 11pm which is way past my usual bedtime.
As I had to go to the city, I decided to make a day (well afternoon and evening) of it and went first to a concert being put on in the church by Southend Boys' and Girls' choir. The poor things had just arrived from the UK the day before (lots of yawning). It was probably the coldest day this year in Sydney (not much above 12'C in the city) and rained most of the day. Some of their mothers were talking to us and mentioned it was 29'C in London. (Hey, it is winter here). Sadly there were only 6 unattached people in the audience including our rector and organist. Hopefully they will have a better attendance at the Opera House on Sunday afternoon when they will be singing with the Sydney Male Choir. At least today is sunny, although a chilly start by Australian standards. I bought one of their CDs as I felt so sorry for them.

Then after coffee and cake (sorry doctor I cannot resist), I went to the movies to see 'The Band's Visit' which is a mildly funny, sad, thoughtful movie.

However the point of this post is the Choral Eucharist. There were about 100 there on a cold wet Friday night and the entrance hymn was "For All the Saints who from their Labours rest" which really had me reminiscing.
In the 60's when I was at university I attended St Philip's Eastwood although I did not live in the parish (I seem to make a habit of that). It was only 15 minutes away by train and lots of my friends from University attended. The Rector, Rev Eric Mortley was well known for his intellectual sermons (of course evangelical but not like today). We always knew when it would be less meaty but evangelistic if there was no tape recorder mounted on the pulpit. I sometimes felt a bit sorry for his less academic parishioners. At his funeral many years later I was very uncomfortable finding myself surrounded by all the friends of those years with their doctorates. I had a basic Arts degree and post grad teaching diploma. Since then I have added another post grad diploma in library and information science but nothing like my contemporaries of those days. Rev Mortley's son, a close friend in those days, became a professor of ancient languages and chancellor at a number of universities.

Anyway, last night the singing of "For All the Saints" took me back to the packed Evening Prayer services at St Philips when we would often sing that hymn. In the 60's young people went to Fellowship on Sunday evening and onto Evening Prayer, life has changed. Obviously not like St James today but uplifting none the less.

My local church Holy Trinity, Concord West was asking me to return to assist with the youth group. I did not want to go, it was the antithesis of the intellectualism of St Philips. I was singing in the choir at Holy Trinity in the morning. I put my name forward for various elected positions in the Fellowship at St Philips and it was expected I would be successful in one of them. For some reason I was not (perhaps there was some resistance to my coming from out of the parish). My friends were shocked and immediately offered to co-opt me to the committee but I felt it was God's guidance and became Assistant Fellowship leader at Holy Trinity. It was difficult but after 2 years I became the Fellowship Leader, a position I held for 3 more years. Hopefully I was where God wanted me to be. It certainly gave me a more practical outlook on the mission to young people.

Back to this weekend at St James. I will soon be catching the train down to the city again to hear Bishop Tom Frame speak on "Do Australian Anglicans have a future?"
Bishop Frame was Bishop to the Australian Defence Force but is now Director at St Mark's National Theological Centre. He will also be preaching tomorrow at our Festival Choral Eucharist. Perhaps I will blog about him later.
Bishop Alfred Holland, retired Bishop of Newcastle will be preaching at Choral Evensong. Note that although none of the Sydney bishops are at Lambeth , they are not attending the patronal festival at St James either.


Fran said...

What a thoughtful and thought provoking post you have here. I am so far away, trying to imagine the Australian winter, the choir, the church.

Peace to you my brother.

Brian R said...

Thanks Fran. I thought it was a bit rambling which is how my mind often works :-). Peace to you my sister.

Boaz said...

Very interesting Brian. We have some things in common. I also was a youth fellowship leader. I was evangelical and very earnest. I remember I even went to fellowship group on the evening of my 21st birthday! It was a sign of my "commitment" (but it was also a sign of how dysfunctional my family were as there certainly wasn't going to be any family party).

I enjoy choirs now too, though back then being too fond of music would have been a sign of not taking the gospel seriously.

Anonymous said...

St James Church sounds great