Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Visiting the Past

We installed a new rector in my parish on Sunday. In order to maximize attendance, there were no Sunday morning services, so I decided to go back to my old parish. (Never mind its name.)

When I attended it, it was the very model of a solidly broad church. The liturgy was formal (and sung), but there were no overt Romanisms-- very Protestant and Episcopal. The church is small, and the altar was against the East wall because otherwise there wasn't enough room in the very shallow sanctuarry. The choir area was raised three steps, with a pulpit and choir stalls on one side and the organ console, a big old eagle lectern, and a pew for the servers on the other. The thick stone walls were white-plastered, and above them was mess of dark wood trusses and arches. We used to decorate the church at Christmas by lowering hooks from the peak of the rafters and hanging these huge garlands of holly and mountain laurel among the beams. There was stained glass, of highly varying quality. The rector when I first came was deeply loved, and deeply loving; and his sermons, if heavily laden with the old broad social responsibility, were solid.

So I returned. And now, the choir stalls are gone, and the pulpit is gone, and the lectern stands at the edge of an empty platform. Half of the altar rail is gone, and the other half has been moved in front of the altar, so that the altar has been pulled forward. The place seems strangely bright, and eventually I look up and see that for some unfathomable reason they've painted the underside of the roof white. But it was never intended to be looked at, so the surface is very irregular, and the effect is untidy.

And then I look in the bulletin, and my heart sinks. The liturgy is going to be some of that trial use crap where you can't say anything trinitarian because it contains that nasty word:


At least they take the eucharistic canon from Prayer D, and the confessional isn't too "Oprah", so I can bring myself to take communion. The service lacks electricity, probably in part because the parish has lost its rector in a spat with the vestry, and people are still spooked. There are few people I recognize, almost all of them choir members, who all come over in hopes that I'm thinking about coming back. And I'm thinking, "I'll never come back."

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