Last night I went to the Solemn High Evensong at St. Stephens, the aforementioned Anglo Catholic church I have been visiting for the last couple of years. The service was full of pagentry and singing. It was in stark contrast to the simple exhuberance of St. Teresa's. In fact, at some point, I began to wonder if it was all too choreographed for it's own good. I didn't like it nearly as much as I did the plainchant evensong that I participated in a couple of weeks ago. They were totally different, in fact. Whereas the plainchant version was relatively informal, begining with the rector telling us about the service and inviting us to relax and join in when we felt like it, this solemn version last night was extremely formal. It began with the incense and a procession of the huge choir, followed by the priests in gold and green vestments. The church is very gloomy, even during the day, but in the evening, not one tiny bit of light managed to sneak in through the dark stained glass windows.
As it was an Evensong celebrating the feast of St. Michael and All Angels, I guess it is customary to do a sort of procession to symbolize one's spiritual journey. That should have been fairly meaningful for me, given that I am in the midst of discerning my own journey. But as it was, I was right behind the rector for the walk around the sanctuary and was much more concerned with keeping the pace and staying on key. I have heard that at the Anglo Catholic church in Boston, they actually take the procession out into the streets. I was sort of hoping that that would be the case here, too. Why do the Roman Catholics get to have all the fun of crazy street processions? Alas, we circumnavigated the sanctuary once and sat back down in the pews.
There was a guest preacher last night. The vicar from the Episcopal Cathedral across town. He had apparently spent a lot of time in Williamsburg VA and still wore the floppy colonial style collar. (Or maybe that has to do with being a vicar... I don't know.) I saw the same collar on the minister at King's Chapel in Boston. The Vicar, whose name I don't remember, gave a perfectly fine sermon... but it was so clean and tidy compared to Fr. Ray. It was bleached white and nicely pressed, but seemed lifeless, somehow.
Next week, St. Stephens goes back to the plainchant evensong on Sunday and I am going with my friend Fr. P and another friend. I am happy it is going to be the more relaxed version.
Grapple alert: I understand why the Anglicans and Catholics want to take the focus off the sermon and keep it on the Eucarist. It definately makes sense to me that the emphasis of the mass should be on worshipping God rather than talking about worshipping God. But somehow, I wonder if in the midst of all the ritual is it possible to lose sight of that?