Sunday, December 19, 2010

Worshipping in 2010

Due to my move and travel, I have attended a number of different churches this year.

On the first two Sundays in January I was still at St James, King Street.
Leaving St James was the hardest part of my move.  I loved going there, it was such a breath of fresh air after years of struggling in the average Anglican parishes in Sydney.  I had always avoided the more fundamentalist examples but even when I attended those who had Holy Communion every week and still used the prayer book for their services, I knew that I was not really welcome as a gay man. Or rather I could attend but, like women, I should know my place and not even read the lesson during services.

At St James I knew I was welcome and did not have to hide my sexuality. The services were beautiful, the preaching excellent and there was a great variety due to the many visiting preachers, including women priests from other dioceses. Of course they had to suffer the indignity of being relegated to role of deacon while in Sydney, even Bishop Barbara Darling.  The St James Institute provided a variety of courses which informed my Christian life.

However the 2 hour travel each way was difficult and because the parishioners come from all over Sydney (mainly fleeing the surrounding swamp of evangelicalism) it was hard to develop friendships. I know they are trying to remedy the problem this year. And always there was the dead hand of the Diocese and Jensenism overhead.  I returned for two Sundays in August and will be back there on Christmas Day. We will not have the Prime Minister in the congregation this year as Kevin Rudd no longer holds that position and I presume will attend church back in Brisbane.  Julia Gillard does not attend church.

Then I moved to Dunedin and began attending the parish of St John the Evangelist, Roslyn.

Under the previous Vicar, Kelvin Wright, this parish has developed into probably the most vibrant parish in the diocese. I have formed a number of friendships although I only registered as a parishioner after my return from travels in November. There is a good choir but they do not attempt anything too complicated, the services are not as Anglo-catholic as St James, however there are candles, a processional cross and the altar is acknowledged. These things are nowhere to be seen in the average Sydney parish.  They use the variety of liturgies available in the NZ prayer book which I feel are a bit confusing, coming from Australia where there are really only 2 liturgies available. Of course many Sydney parishes ignore set liturgies all together.

The liturgy and hymns are projected on a screen. I now use the screen for hymns but prefer to use the book for the liturgy. The parishioners include a great variety.  In a conversation, one man told me he had been recently been born again and later expressed reservations about the formality of the cathedral services.  Most, however, are middle of the road Anglicans found throughout the world and only seen as "high church" in dioceses like Sydney. They seem oblivious to the dangers of Jensenism, have heard that Sydney does not allow women priests but surprised when I tell them some parishes do not allow women to even speak and have services not remotely resembling Anglican.  Kelvin often preached in support of homosexuals, including my first service there this year, however he is more reticent now that he has become the bishop.  He appears to be unwilling to create divisions. I am rather concerned that his last published sermon was in July at St Matthews, the leading evangelical parish in the city.

This, of course, is the greatest change at St John's.  Kelvin was consecrated bishop of Dunedin at the end of February. It is great to have such a man in that position and also to have a bishop who knows me by name. Last week I attended the service in the Cathedral for the Pike River Miners. Let's face it, I would not have attended such a service in Sydney if one of the bishops was preaching. Kelvin's sermon was, as usual, excellent and thoughtful, speaking of Christian hope without laying it on thick as the Sydney types are wont to do, seeing such an occasion as just another opportunity to evangelise.

St John's is therefore without a vicar. We had 9 months with Roger who was also excellent and his sermons were great fun as well as instructive, though different from Kelvin.  He had retired last year and has just this month left to resume his retirement.  I will leave any judgment of the new acting vicar until I have experienced more than one service with her.

The new vicar is migrating from England and will not be here until next August. He is Reverend Eric Kyte, Priest-in-Charge of the Parishes of Gisburn and Hellifield in the Diocese of Bradford, England.  As I plan to stay with a friend who lives in Bradford next year, I may take a peek. 

St John's has a variety of ages, which is good to see. There are the old codgers like me and many babies and small children. Being an old codger who has no experience of children, grandchildren or even nephews and nieces, I am sometimes (often) irritated by the noise of children during services. The third Sunday is a family service and the children do not go out to Sunday school and the sermon is geared to them. 

I have therefore taken the opportunity to attend Choral Eucharist at the Cathedral of St Paul's on that Sunday. This month there was a children's pageant at St John's on the 2nd Sunday so my routine varied and I went to the cathedral then. The choir and organist are both excellent and the service is more formal, more like St James. The congregation are older and smaller though this is more noticeable due to the size of the cathedral.  Sadly, I hear, there are ructions within the congregation.  Both the Dean and the Bishop have referred to this in their blogs. I do not know the details but it is a matter for prayer. I know there are financial problems due to the recession. They were not unwise, like Sydney, just too careful so income from assets is low. I do wish they would update their webpage.  Of course, the great attraction to me is the presence of Rev Juan Kinnear, a partnered gay man, as Associate Priest. To have him occasionally preaching or presiding and often present is wonderful.

Besides the monthly attendance on Sunday Morning, I have attended for other services such as the Pike River memorial, the Aids memorial, Advent carols two weeks ago and hopefully festival of Nine Lessons and Carols tonight. 

This year I also visited several churches while on my travels. I researched the details of the Anglican churches in Copenhagen and Oslo but when the days came, I decided to spend my time sightseeing rather than trying to find my way through a strange city. Two other Sundays were spent on board ship in Norway and travelling by train from Mainz to Oberammergau. 

However in London I attended Choral Eucharist at Southwark Cathedral. I had heard Dean Slee preach at St James on April 19, 2009 and been impressed. Sadly he was absent when I visited and, as is well known, has since died. The sermon by Dean Jeffrey John at the funeral tell what a great loss that has been to the Anglican church not only in England but throughout the world.  Even without the Dean, it was an uplifting service at the cathedral. 
I went to Evensong at the other cathedral in London the following Thursday.

In New York I attended Choral Eucharist at  Trinity, Wall Street. 
I was travelling the following Sunday from Burlington, Vermont but attended Mother Amelia's parish church of St Andrew, Newcastle, Maine. The new rector is a partnered lesbian. It was very different from the big city churches I otherwise attended on my trip.

In Montreal I went to Christ Church Cathedral. The president was the Priest in charge Rev Canon Joyce Sanchez and the preacher was the Associate priest Rev Karla Holmes. The new Dean has since been announced. Canon Joyce announced that she had just taken up the right to perform marriages again. Apparently she had relinquished the licence in protest at not being able to perform blessings for same-sex couples.That has now changed in the Diocese of Montreal. In researching her online, I discover she is chaplain to Integrity. 
If I had been a week later I would have found all the bishops of Canada at the service as the Canada synod was held there. I probably would not have got in.

My final Sunday was in Ottawa and I discovered an Anglican church in the next block to my hotel.  The church of St John the Evangelist. I did a double take of the notice board until I read it more closely.  It said "Blessed are the fundamentalists for they shall inhibit the Earth" My initial thought to avoid the church completely was soon changed. 
Another notice was "The Lion shall lie down with the Lamb but the Lamb will not get much sleep"
More research discovered that the church has been a leading advocate of gay inclusion and the previous rector may have been gay himself. So I was glad to attend. 
Both Canadian services had innovative music and in Montreal there was a welcome and the first lesson was read in French and in Ottawa the Lord's Prayer was in French. 

So partly on purpose but also by accident I was able to worship in inclusive churches where GLBT people are valued.  So different from most of Sydney.

This item was in my mind while travelling and has been in development online for several weeks. I do not know how some very busy people are able to make several blog items per day. 


Malcolm+ said...

I think it must have been the House of Bishops meeting in Montreal - or perhaps the provincial synod of the Province of Canada (as opposed to the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada which was in June in Halifax).

Brian R said...

Thanks Malcolm. Apparently the House of Bishops. No such thing in Australia not sure about NZ. Just knew I would have been overwhelmed if I had been there.

Fran said...

Thanks for sharing your reflections about worship Brian. I have learned so much from you about the situation in Sydney, which is at large, very sad. I am glad that you did find refuge at St. James when you were there. I am reminded of how hope is kept alive in the midst of darkness by what you have described there.

It is really wonderful that you have found what you have in NZ. And I love hearing about your travels. And I will always be grateful that those travels included our meeting.

Have a blessed and wonderful Christmas!

PS - I do hope that you get to meet Fr. Bosco one day!

Birdie said...

Reading your various impressions reminded me of "Mystery Worshipers" on the Ship Of Fools website, wherein someone reports on the experience of worshiping at a new church. St. James was reviewed in 2002. Maybe you could be a Mystery Worshiper for the places you visit!

Eric Kyte said...

Hello Brian,

If you do come to 'take a peek' then please do introduce yourself - you'd be most welcome

Grace and peace to you