Sunday, January 22, 2012

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

About my technical difficulties: The issue is that, when I'm on a iPad, Blogger's default is an HTML field on which to post. So, if I want to do any formatting, it looks I have to add my own HTML tags. Not gonna happen. However, I'm writing this post directly in Blogger, rather than first putting into Evernote and then copying it over. So, if you see paragraphs, that idea worked. If not, it didn't.

For Mass this morning, some sleuthing by the Archdeacon had already pointed me to St Gabriel's, Pimlico, which was an easy Tube ride followed by about an eight minute walk. I was looking for a particular liturgical ethos, one that might be described as "family Catholic." I was not disappointed. The building is Victorian, as is the whole neighborhood, an, while it needs some repairs, it is quite lovely. The liturgy was rich without being fussy. It kind of reminded me of Holy Trinity, Danville, so ... Danites, take a bow. The congregation numbered around 60, which means that vacant seats well outnumbered occupied ones. But there was a good proportion of children--about a dozen, I would say--and it is evident that great care is being taken for their spiritual formation. During the coffee hour, parishioners told me that the congregation has gown significantly since the current vicar arrived, that he's very much focused on the church reaching out to everyone who lives in the geographic parish. People of the Diocese of Springfield: Take due note that your bishop is not the only one who talks this way!

The weather was still balmy for January, and I was feeling energetic, so I decided to make my way back to my hotel on foot, about 2.5 miles. As it happened, the most efficient route took me right past Buckingham Palace and through Hyde Park, so, other than having to dodge hordes of picture-snapping tourists for a while (OK, I did take one picture when the guys in the funny hats walked by--and now you're wondering where I get off talking derisively about guys in funny hats), I had no complaints.

Lunch was at a Middle Eastern joint that occupies a very classic looking old English pub location. Chicken Shwarma and tabouleh. Yum. But when I asked for water, the server gave me a blank stare. His English is limited, but it's English English that he knows, so when I revised my request to wo-tah, he understood me perfectly. Smart guy. Along those lines, if all I had to go on were snippets of conversations that I overhear on the street, I could be forgiven for wondering where I really am. Moscow? Beirut? Paris? Madrid? Hong Kong? This is a cosmopolitan city.

Next up was 3:15 Choral Evensong at St Paul's Catherdral. For you church music geeks: Responses by Kenneth Leighton, canticles by Basil Harwood, anthem by William Boyce. What a gift choral evensong is. And what a setting. Being turned out on the street only briefly, I returned through the west door once again for a 4:45 organ recital by Simon Johnson, the principal cathedral organist. Bach, Messian, and Franck.

But wait. I'm not done with church yet. A couple of short Tube rides put me at All Saints, Margaret Street, one of the world-class Anglo-Catholic shrine churches, for 6pm Evensong and Benediction. What I participated in there was surely of the same genus as what took place at St Paul's--Evensong is Evensong--but it's an entirely distinct species. This isn't the venue for an explication of the differences. Suffice it to say that I appreciate them both, for different reasons. Honorable mention at All Saints goes to the choir's rendition of Maurice Durufle's Tantum Ergo at Benediction.

So all this means I heard three sermons today. It prompts me to observe the importance of preachers realizing that their medium is oral. What might be a splendid article, essay, or written meditation is probably not a good sermon. The human brain processes the spoken word differently than its does the written word. Issues of timing, cadence, and narrative all require more attention than most preachers realize. In my opinion.

I emerged from the Tube in the Leicester Square area hoping to find Chinatown and eat there. I know it's in that vicinity 'cause I saw it the other night. But it disappeared on me. So I settled for another Indian meal. Poor me.

Despite all the Tube riding I did, my pocket pedometer tells me I walked over 11 miles today, and more than a third of that was at an aerobic rate. I'm thinking that's generally a good thing.

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