Christ Cathedral, Victoria, BC (Exterior)

Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Christ Church Cathedral
Location: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Date of visit: Sunday, 24 September 2017, 11:00am

The building

The Gothic-style building is the third structure on this site. The first was destroyed by fire in 1869, then the second became too small for the congregation. It was designed by local architect JCM Keith and begun in the late 1890s. The nave was completed in 1929. The two western towers were completed in the 1950s. At the east end, which was completed in 1991, on the upper level is the Chapel of New Jerusalem, below which is the cathedral chapter room behind the nave (high) altar. There is a chapel to St Christopher on the south side of the nave altar and one to St Mary on the north side. There is splendid stained glass just about everywhere one rests his gaze; the east window is especially fine. The pulpit was carved from a single piece of English oak over 500 years old when felled and seasoned for 30 years. The three coats of arms on the panels are those of the Dioceses of Canterbury and British Columbia, and of the family who donated the pulpit. The vertical panel at the back has the coat of arms of the cathedral.

The church

This is the cathedral church of the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia, which is also known as the Diocese of the Islands and Inlets. Originally including the entire province, the diocese was split into five dioceses making up the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and Yukon. It now comprises Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands of the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia), and Kingcome Inlet. As a community of faith, they acknowledge that they worship on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish peoples.

The neighborhood

Victoria, the southernmost major city in western Canada, sits at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, equidistant from the cities of Vancouver, BC, and Seattle, Washington. Victoria is the capital of British Columbia. The cathedral is located between the residential area of Rockland and Downtown Victoria. Across the road is the YMCA/YWCA.

The cast

Presider: the Very Revd M. Ansley Tucker, dean.
Preacher: the Revd Canon Nancy E. Ford.

What was the name of the service?

Sung Eucharist (1962 Rite)

How full was the building?

One-quarter full in the nave; side aisles virtually empty. Estimated congregation of 80 to 100, with a choir of approximately 30.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

We were welcomed on the cathedral steps as we approached the building. Inside, no one spoke to us prior to the service. However, we were welcomed during the peace.

Was your pew comfortable?

Traditional pews with cushions, which were quite comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Relatively calm. However, "Malcolm" (of whom more later) was talking to various couples – visitors and regulars – in the 5-10 minutes before the service. He did not talk to us.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

The dean began with: "Good morning. I am trying to attract the attention of Malcolm, as you do not want to hear from me all the time." The opening of the service consisted of around 10 minutes of notices from Malcolm, another member of the congregation, and the dean.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Everything was in a pre-printed service booklet. Music was available in Common Praise (1998 edition, published by the Anglican Book Centre, Toronto).

What musical instruments were played?

Organ, with bells at the beginning and halfway way point of the psalm, which was plainsong.

Did anything distract you?

The procession included the choir, who turned right at the nave altar and then processed down the south aisle to access the organ loft and choir stalls over the west end door. At the end, they were last to receive communion and remained at the altar rails for the blessing and dismissal and then processed out from that point.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

It had the feeling of old fashioned Anglican in language, being more modern in the order of the liturgy. The service claimed to be the 1962 rite. However, when compared to the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church of Canada (1962), around 50 per cent was from the Prayer Book (mainly the eucharistic prayer). The choir sang Haydn's Mass No. 7 in B Flat Major (Little Organ Mass), although there was no Gloria and the Creed was sung to the Merbecke setting. Interestingly, the service sheet included the following: "All are welcome to receive communion. For hygienic reasons, the Anglican Church no longer permits intinction." Compare this to a notice given at another Anglican church nearby only a week before: "It is usual Anglican practice to drink the wine from the common cup. If you wish to dip bread in the wine, extend one hand for a wafer." One wonders just how universal the prohibition may be.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

7 – The most memorable bit was a discussion about the reduction of the number of pens and pencils that are now being bought, noting that musicians still use pencils.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

After talking for around four minutes about pencils and pens, and the reduction in the teaching of writing in schools, she lost me. But I could find a link into the texts for the day, which included the parable of the landowner who hired workers throughout the day: "The first shall be last the the last shall be first" (Matthew 20:1-16).

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The singing of the Agnus Dei was divine.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

The dean went straight from intercessions to the absolution, without turning her microphone on. What happened to the confession?

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

We went to the chapter room. The notices suggested we pick up a blue mug so that we were identified as a visitor/newcomer. Everyone seemed engrossed in their own business. After a few minutes we left.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

We only noticed tea/coffee.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

2 – As an occasional visitor, I suppose we would worship here. However, it would not be our first choice as a regular place to worship.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Middling. As a regular Anglican worshipper, I was not put off, but I'm not sure it would encourage a casual visitor.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The east window.

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