This past Sunday I attended my first Anglican service, at St. James church in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The service was actually a Tridentine high Mass, sung in English, with celebrant, deacon, and sub-deacon facing the altar. There was enough incense to make the Dalai Lama’s eyes water.
I was most pleasantly surprised and relieved to find at the front of this beautiful church pamphlets containing the entire text of the liturgy of the Mass, along with instructions to stand, sit, and kneel at the appropriate places. The pamphlet also contained information about the music performed during the service, as well as what was essentially the church’s Sunday bulletin.
Sunday Mass at the Catholic church I attended for four years was partly a social occasion for many of the members of the congregation, largely made up of Filipinos. There were lots of greetings, chatting, and laughter. Not so in the Anglican church. In the church pamphlet, on a page headed “Before Mass,” is written: “You are encouraged to take the opportunity before Mass for silence, stillness, and prayer. Please refrain from talking before Mass begins.” At the end of the Mass, I was also surprised to see that there was no rush to exit the church. Even after the closing hymn was over, the members of the congregation remained in the pews to pray quietly. I was almost embarrassed to be the first to get up and leave the church.
This was my first Anglican high Mass, so I felt awkward at times because I was not familiar with the liturgy. I have also been accustomed to the larger, more lively congregations of my former Catholic church; the silence in St. James before and after Mass was a little disconcerting. Nevertheless, the community is welcoming, and from what I read in the bulletin, is also gay friendly. I will definitely visit this church again.
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