St Andrew’s Cathedral, Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Andrew’s Cathedral, Prince Rupert
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Date of visit: Sunday, 19 May 2024, 10:30am

The building

St Andrew’s is a tall, wooden, Gothic revival building (with peeling paint), on a very steep street at the highest point in town, accessible by a walkway. The church was built between 1912 and 1925, and was elevated to the status of a cathedral in 1929. Beneath the sanctuary is a parish hall and the offices of the Anglican Diocese of Caledonia, which serves northern British Columbia.

The church

The congregation was ethnically mixed, with children, families and elderly. They seemed to be well known and related to each other. The cathedral offers parish meetings, movie nights and Bible discussion groups on Mondays; and on Wednesdays, following a midday communion service, hosts ‘a brief luncheon of yummy soups, often made from scratch by the Bishop himself’ (according to the website).

The neighborhood

St Andrew’s is high up atop many hills in a residential neighborhood. Prince Rupert is a small port city (with a population of about 13,500) on the Pacific coast of British Columbia.

The cast

The bishop was the preacher and celebrant. A vested lay person wearing a blue ribbon was the gospeller; a vested layman wearing a red ribbon was the chalicist; a vested man sat in a chair by the altar and scowled.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Eucharist.

How full was the building?

Practically empty. People commented that there were usually more folks present, but some were away on this holiday (Victoria Day) weekend.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

A lovely woman recognized our exhaustion after our 45 minute climb, and assured us that she would give us a ride back down to the town after the service. The website had a special welcome to cruise ship passengers.

Was your pew comfortable?

The pew was reasonably comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

The community was waiting together.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Since your rector is away on a tour of the States this morning, I am here as your celebrant.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

We flipped back and forth between a prayer book and a hymnal; a worship bulletin was also available.

What musical instruments were played?

The bishop’s wristwatch controlled a computerized recording that played tinny, canned music from a box. One tempo was set by the box; the Bishop sang lustily at another tempo; the congregation lagged behind at a third tempo!

Did anything distract you?

Two things were distracting: a piano overloaded with piles of boxes, papers and books; and an orange t-shirt displayed (or left behind?) on a pew end in the chancel.

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

The worship was inclusive, informal, and homely.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

10 minutes.

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

8 — The bishop obviously loved and knew the congregation; he was comfortable and well familiar with the scriptural texts and the work of the Holy Spirit in his diocese.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Pentecost proclaims God's continued shaping of the membership and institution of the church. Scripture details the stories of those empowered by the Spirit. Also, two examples are present in this community – one of them was a man newly ordained as a deacon.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The entry of the children! After the communion, a Sunday School class was led in by their teacher. They knelt at the rail, received the sacrament, and the bishop offered a gracious prayer for them. Then the kids walked down the middle aisle and passed the peace to the congregation.

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

Oh, it was the music! The liturgy paused; the bishop pushed buttons on his watch, and then we sang seven long hymns accompanied by the canned music.

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

The bishop announced a coffee hour, but we did not see it. No one hung around. But the angel of mercy gave us a ride back to our ship.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

We did not attend.

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

2 — Since we were visiting because our cruise ship was in port, we won’t be able to become regular attenders here.

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

Yes! Even though the worship was not a particularly appealing style, and even though the prayers and announcements were totally directed to the congregation, we were one family praising God together in a way that is familiar. Even though we were far away, we were at home. Alleluia!

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

The kindness of the woman who drove us back to our ship.

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