Thursday, 1 July 2010
Different altar, same purpose
What a difference 25 years makes. Back in 1985 when I presided at my first Eucharist I used the ASB Rite A Order. There were Servers and incense. The Epistle was read by the person on the Reading rota. I genuflected at the right moments. The Bible was processed for the Gospel reading. There was a large congregation there to see that this new priest did things correctly and in order. Hymns were sung.
Today I celebrated Common Worship Order 1, shortened and with the traditional language Lord's Prayer. There were no Servers - I did everything myself. There was no incense. There was an Epistle reader though. I didn't genuflect - if I had I would have disappeared behind the altar! The Gospel was read from the altar steps, but not processed. There was the regular congregation of 10 adults and a German Shepherd dog. There were no hymns.
I cannot recall if back in 85 if we commemmorated John and Henry Venn, but we did today, their theme of "pastors" feeling very appropriate at this season of ordinations.
Two new deacons have arrived in our Deanery, and I saw them for the first time at the Synod last night. Fresh-faced and enthusiastic from Theological College, they will soon find that their preferences and ideals have to be tempered by the reality of parish life. No-one told us that when we go forward for ordination we say goodbye to the style of worship that has nurtured us up to that point in our walk of faith. Never again will we find it, for the parish in which we serve our Title will have its own format and style, and we have to adapt to that if we are to serve the people effectively. This doesn't mean we forget our inspiration that we have gained, but it will only be possible to express it in fragments. And we never regain that old comfortable worship we once knew, for in our absence from that "home" church, it too will have moved on and changed, and we are not part of that movement. So if and when we go back we find that we no longer belong there.
So as I stood at the altar this morning images from that first priestly Eucharist moved through my mind's eye. But I wouldn't go back. I am not the same person I was then. Better or worse? That I can't say. But at least some of the parishioners from then still come and visit me, so I can't have been that awful an experience for them!