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Monday, 21 March 2011

A foray into incense

Yesterday I went to visit a different church. My VC has advised me to go and see some different ones. So I thought I'd start with something at the other end of the CofE spectrum to my own church. That is the very far end, practically in Rome..;) I went to St.Bartholomews in Brighton. Legend has it that it was built on the dimensions of Noahs Ark according to the bible, but I haven't done my research to know whether that is true and most Noahs Ark depictions are shown the other way round - longer and not very high, but anyway I digress....
So I didn't know what to expect. I thought it would be just like God to make me love it and want to go into that kind of church... that didn't happen, much to my relief, I can just imagine my husbands face... But at the same time I didn't hate it. It was actually rather interesting and I came away with a certain amount of respect for the 'higher' church. It was of course very theatrical and lots of incense, and when I say lots, my goodness my eyes were watering at one point, I could hardly see the person in front of me! But it had a real sense of awe and reverence which is sometimes missed in the more evangelical wing of the CofE.  When we went up to communion I actually felt I was approaching something higher and better than me. And the music was amazing. They had a full on choir, singing all the 'in betweeny bits' and the sound was amazing - as it is such a big building, so tall - there are no floors in it, its just one storey, it echoed all around. Quite impressive. Well, very, actually
I totally respect the place this kind of church has in the Anglican church, however, what I did feel was, that to a visitor, someone who had not been before or not often, it was all too rigid. Even the hand out told you where to sit/stand/kneel. Which was helpful to be fair, but I kept getting confused and missing the cue! so I gave up in the end and stayed on my chair. Obviously having been in a more traditional church for some time I was able to understand what was going on, but to a visitor it would have been incredibly confusing. This is my beef with some parts of the church (and not all the anglo-catholic ones either) that church should be welcoming and inviting. People should feel able to come and meet with God whatever their circumstances or knowledge of church. Even I felt awkward yesterday and a bit out of place, what would soneone who had no church background have thought?
I was trying very hard to be open and as I have said some parts I did enjoy, but I have to admit to stiffling a giggle when the Priest started singing the gospel, and it was an incredibly long passage... And another thing which does get me is the ringing the bell thing. I mean what is that about? It's a bit like saying, well the Holy Spirit wasn't here before but now I've said these magic words, hey presto, ring ring, and he's here...  Perhaps someone can explain to me in better terminology what it is really for?
All that said, I know God was there, I could feel just feel His presence, particularly after communion. Which I was thankful for as I was beginning to wonder..;)


Perpetua said...

I had to smile at this, Red. It's always a bit of a culture shock to go to somewhere so different from what we're used to, but I'm glad you found parts of it so satisfying.

MadPriest said...

Believe me, Red, it's just as confusing and intimidating for an Anglo-Catholic to visit an evangelical church. We all have our rules, written and unwritten.

Red said...

Thanks for the comments guys. Thanks MP - yes I am sure you're right too and as I say above, there is a place for both of them. Ultimately the important thing to remember is that, in whatever way we chose to worship, we are worshipping the same God.

MadPriest said...

whatever way we chose to worship, we are worshipping the same God.

Well, yes. Except the Methodists, of course :-)

nicolahulks said...

I enjoyed this! I've gone from a huge evangelical church to a tiny local very traditional one on a call from God. I had the same experience in that same God, same gospel, but I do feel the same about getting totally lost, still after near on six months! I figure that bringing a lot of enthusiasm is keeping me in favour with the rest of the congregation and we've been able to set up the first ever young people's group in the church, as the average age is about 70 it's allowing me to fool myself into thinking I'm practically a teenager! Love it!
As you said I think the most important thing is to have respect for one another, each part of the church does somethings so well (the enthusiasm of evangelicals for example!) and we can all learn from each other! Going to stop rambling now....!!!