Knock-off Notre-Dame de Paris look, but stubbier. Dreary grey stone used for the arches of the church. The stained glass windows, however, are amazing and highly detailed. Behind the altar is the Chapel of New Jerusalem on the second floor, which you could see into from the nave. There are large glass windows looking into the chapel that reminded me of the church windows in the wedding scene toward the end of the classic Dustin Hoffman film The Graduate.
Their website describes an undertaking called Greater Works than These, where parishioners were asked to imagine what kind of church would be wanted and needed as the 21st century progressed – the ten most salient points from this study are summarized on their website. Their numerous ministries and outreaches are also well described on the website. They are strong supporters of programs of musical and visual arts, designed (quoting from their website) ‘to elevate the … arts as one means of inviting people into the depth of Christian spirituality.’ There are two services of holy communion each Sunday, plus choral evensong. Holy communion is also celebrated during the week on Wednesdays, with morning prayer on other days. Many but not all of the services are live-streamed online as well as held in person.
Pioneer Square, an old burial ground where rest the earthly remains of the famous and not-so-famous, is very near the cathedral; walking tours take place regularly. The Afghanistan Memorial, dedicated to Canadian soldiers who died or were wounded during the Afghanistan war, Canada’s longest military campaign, is also nearby. There is another large Anglican church (St John the Divine) 800m down the road.
The dean opened the service and gave the church announcements. The vicar presided at the service, but the dean gave the homily. The verger led the procession. A server held the processional cross. The choir sang under the direction of the choirmaster and the organist played the music.
What was the name of the service?Sung Eucharist.
How full was the building?
About 150 people. Due to covid restrictions, the building was by no means full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A greeter said ‘Good morning’ and handed me a bulletin (which they call leaflet).
Was your pew comfortable?
Wooden pew with cushion and kneeler (also cushioned). It was decently comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Mostly quiet. The carillon was played. A bunch of ladies who sat behind me had a very loud conversation. Then a group of people sat directly in front of me – clearly 2m spacing was not a thing (but at least we were all masked). There were a lot of sound checks at the lectern by the dean and by the vicar (as they had portable microphones) before the service started.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
‘Good morning. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None were in the pews; everything was contained in the bulletin. However, one of the ladies behind me complained that she couldn't use just the bulletin and she needed the Book of Common Praise with the music, so she got herself a copy.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
The windows behind the altar looking into the Chapel of New Jerusalem. This is where Sunday school is held, so during the service you could see kids and the Sunday school teacher moving around above the altar. This was distracting.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Contemporary low church Anglican worship. The psalms were chanted, but not Anglican chant (ironic, eh?) The clergy displayed a very relaxed demeanour. They said a contemporary version of the Lord's Prayer, so I was lost because I wasn't used to the wording.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 — There were a lot of ‘modern’ references (e.g. Homer Simpson).
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
In the hymn ‘In the bleak mid-winter,’ the poor have nothing to give but their heart. But giving the heart should mean more than just giving money, because giving your heart means giving all you have. Do we give our hearts to Christ?
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Pre-church carillon bell ringing. The stained glass windows. The fact that cathedral actually uses a verger.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The dreary grey stone they used to build the cathedral made it look very ‘concrete brutalist’ (but it is supposed to be in the Neo-Gothic style). Part of me felt the sermon was guilt-tripping me to give more money. After the service, because of covid restrictions, none of the clergy greeted the people at the door – they all retreated into the vestry. I never saw any of the clergy after the service was over.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Only one person approached me as I wandered to look at the stained glass windows – it was one of the greeters. He asked me if I was a visitor and I said yes, he then asked from where and some other details, before recommending that I should go see the Chapel of New Jerusalem as it has an excellent view of the nave and organ.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No coffee or snacks were offered due to covid.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 — They do a Book of Common Prayer (as they call 1962 rite) evensong, which I plan on attending to see their take on evensong. They're a rather contemporary crowd, so I'm interested to see what evensong looks like.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
There was nothing I would write home about the service. I felt someone unwelcomed – it was very odd not to greet any clergy after the service. A lot of people after the service stood in the aisle and chit-chatted, but they all kept to themselves and none actually engaged me.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Those large glass windows above the altar and imagining Dustin Hoffman from The Graduate.