St Margaret of Scotland, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Margaret of Scotland
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Date of visit: Sunday, 14 November 2021, 8:30am

The building

A modern structure dating from 1960, thought by some to be the ugliest building in Christendom. It was built on a hill overlooking a beautiful body of water; however, all the windows face away from that direction. The steeple looks like partially completed wooden scaffolding with cell phone repeaters attached.

The church

They serve the Halifax North End and are pretty well known as the Anglican church in the area. Their ministries are well described on their website. I’ll just mention Friends of St Margaret’s, (quoting from their website) ‘an active group of parishioners … [who] work together to emulate the goodness and charitable ways of St Margaret, Queen of Scotland.’ There are two services each Sunday: a Prayer Book said service and (again quoting from their website) a ‘contemporary Anglican service with music.’

The neighborhood

Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, is a major economic centre as well as the seat of various government services. The North End is a trendy neighbourhood featuring chic boutiques and restaurants. It is especially noted for its colourful housing stock. St Margaret’s is next to the Nova Scotia Community College, and so there is ample parking.

The cast

The rector celebrated, read the gospel, and preached. A lay reader read the readings and psalms.

What was the name of the service?

Book of Common Prayer Said Holy Eucharist for the Feast of St Margaret of Scotland.

How full was the building?

Practically empty: four congregants, one priest, one lay reader (for a total of six).

Did anyone welcome you personally?

The priest greeted me as I walked in the door. I was looking for where to sign my name for Covid-19 contact tracing.

Was your pew comfortable?

Standard wooden pew with kneelers – heavily varnished so somewhat slippery, but easy to slide into the kneeling position.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet, a bit awkward. A windstorm was raging outside. The priest and lay reader were walking around a lot to set things up. There was no formal procession – the priest and lay reader just got to the altar and started speaking.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Good morning. Thank you for making it safely from the parking lot and not blown away in this windstorm.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Book of Common Prayer, Canada, 1962.

What musical instruments were played?

No music; this was a said service. No chanting either.

Did anything distract you?

There was a ceiling tile that was displaced. There was a nest of birds that were calling outside – they could be heard inside the church.

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

Disorganized. The priest lost his place during the liturgy a few times. The lay reader read the wrong reading (not the reading in the bulletin) and he just read the psalms himself without the congregation responding.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

6 minutes.

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

7 — The sermon was a succinct mix of trivia/history about St Margaret of Scotland and applicable Christian values that could apply to all.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

How St Margaret, the patron saint of the church, was a bridge builder and how we as Christians should also build bridges, that is to say connect with our fellow communities and people and be an example of Christians.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

First time receiving communion in both kinds in a while. The wine was ministered in large glasses and the server poured a lot of wine into them.

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

I was not really comfortable about leaving remnants of consecrated wine in the glass then just abandoning it in a plastic tub for ‘cleaning.’ Also, the lay reader reading the wrong reading and going rogue on the psalms was really awkward.

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

Not really possible since there were only six people in the church. They all swarmed together whilst I made my way to the back.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

No coffee was served because of Covid-19 restriction. However, because it was the feast of title, the church lady present had prepared some baked goods (sugar cookies, banana bread, and fudge) in a plastic wrapped paper plate (to be eaten outside the church due to Covid-19 restrictions). The baked goods were rather tasty and one of the cookies was church shaped. A pin of a white rose was also given to me, as the ‘Legend of the White Rose’ is associated with St Margaret.

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

7 — I might visit them again after Covid-19 restrictions end to see how this parish is during normal times.

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

Mostly. The liturgy/church service was mediocre but people were nice and rather social afterwards.

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

The lay reader going rogue and reading all the psalms to himself.

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