Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saint Matthews Anglican Church Easter Service

Laura and I were supposed to be celebrating Easter Sunday in Kamloops.  The inaugural towing of the mobile home up the Coquihala met a glitch, an overheating engine.  A touch of hell in the heaven of British Columbia.
I returned to Chilliwack where Ford dealers are well represented. Cottonwood RV park was easily accessible.  My sailing pilot, engineer, Anglican Conservative friend Tom lives in Chilliwack. I phoned him up to tell him we were in town and planned to accompany him to church in the morning.  He was on his way to St. Matthew's Anglican in Abbotsford that night.  I told him what had happened with the Ford F350 diesel. He wanted to smell my transmission fluid before going on to evening church. He came by. The transmission fluid smelt sweet. We brainstormed the engine issues and concluded no damage and a quirk that were it to arise again might simply respond to manually changing gear.  Tom said he'd come by to pick us up in the morning.  We used to attend St. John's Anglican Church, Sardis but Tom's becoming more mystical, has shifted church to Saint Matthews.
"St. Matthew's is a very mystical church," he said.
Alot of the Trinity Western University teachers and students attend there. The Regent College University teachers and students attended at St. John's Anglican Church, Shaughnassey.  Both churches are in the news alot these days.  They've separated from the Anglican Church of Canada and the Diocese of Bishop Michael Ingham.  They are now under the oversight of the Anglican Network of Canada. I usually attend Christ Church Cathedral or St. James Anglican in Vancouver.  Both remain with Bishop Ingham.
While I was raised Baptist and taught Sunday School and attended the United Church of Canada as an adult, I was baptised into the Anglican Church by  Rev. Peter Elliott and Bishop Michael Ingham at Christ Church Cathedral. Tom stood up for me.  Father Fred at St. John's Sardis had been a great inspiration.   I liked the ecumenicalism of the Anglican Church, the inclusivity.  Yet , I' m a biblical student and there's a fine line between everything goes and what is spiritual.  I'd not try to argue the point with a hedonist sensualist though.  Certainly not in Canada where Christians are routinely verbally abused and persecuted.
I was a member of the United Church of Canada when it split and now I'm sitting in the midst of a divisive Anglican Church.
"At least 4 diocese have left the US Episcopalean church over it's radical departure from Biblical principles," Tom told me. I know that Jesus isn't very much spoken of in some mainstream Christian churches these days.  To hear some Christians talk the Bible is just a story book and there's really no difference between philosophy and theology.
My friend George and I were just enjoying Christ Church Cathedral the week before. George is a former Lutheran.    Elizabeth and Phil are so much apart of St. James.  Gilbert, my cockapoo, is welcome in both.  Christians are good people and I enjoy them all.  For years I attended St. John's Shaughnassey and loved the folk there.  So sad that they're all in dispute. I think of the times when the Roman Catholics and Orthodox Catholics were dividing. Then the Lutherans, Baptists, Anglicans, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, and all the sects of Christendom.  There's 3 divisions of Judaism we hear about and countless more including my favourite, Jews for Jesus.  Then there are the Sunni and Shiite Moslems, Sufis and countless other Moslem sects. The Buddhists are a hodge podge of different denominations and Hindus hardly get together without celebrating their individuality.  When I was drinking chai in the late night streets of Bombay and anger would rise with religious sentiment, an old man would hold up one  finger, and say  "One God."  We'd all settle down after that.  I noticed knives being sheathed at times.
So when Tom came to pick us up in his maroon jaguar sporting a jacket and tie, I quickly added a tie to my own dress. Laura was divine in her spring frock. Gilbert was left at home to guard the RV.
I'd not been to Saint Matthews in years.  I envisioned barbed wire fences, parapets and clergy in cammo. Ecclesiastical wars unfortunately are more of an "inside job' .  There's no place for Spielberg. Anything but.  Hand grenades couldn't break the peaceful smiles of the people congregating there.  The church was decked out for spring rejoicing  with white robed clergy and ladies sporting flowered bonnets
The church was soon full and all ages were represented.  Rector Mike Stewart greeted the congregation.  He was a thoroughly delightful man with a twinkle in his eye and a zest for life.  The children loved him.  We sang songs from the Anglican red Hymmnary  and songs thrown up on the wall by the overhead projector. It was such an up tempo church with so much song and even dancing I kept looking for Dr. Willi and Anita Gutowski my Pentecostal friends whose church services are regular work outs.
Easter is Resurrection,  The Easter egg is a symbol of rebirth.  I love the Third Day Rock Band whose music is featured on Mel Gibson's movie about the Passion of Christ.  This was the Third Day. Christ has Risen. Hallelujah!.  Christ has Risen.  The readings told of the empty tomb after the crucifixion and Christ meeting his disciples before ascension to sit at the right hand of God.  As we all recited the Nicene Creed it had special poignancy.  The fabric of the universe had altered with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  A monumental difference, like a world in black and white, becoming a world of colour and smells had occurred historically. The beginning of that first Easter continues today and every day. Christ is Risen. Hallelujah.  This is a spiritual universe and death has no hold on us.
Faces radiant, voices rising in song, it was an exhilerating service.  I nodded during the sermon.  I've nodded in the very best so it's probably a reflection on the highest quality of a sermon. I fell asleep so many times at the symphony with the greatest of composers I've not dared return without some medieval torture suit to keep me attentive.  Laura in recent years at church  has been kind enough to nudge me before I snore. Being of Catholic origins I trust her to avoid such mortification There were definitely good parts about Mary talking to Jesus.  Then we were thick into the eucharist, Rt. Rev. Dr. Trevor Walters presciding.
That's when I realized there was a second floor to the church. All these strangers started funnelling forward out of nowhere. I leaned over to Tom then and said, "You sat us at the back of the communion bus."
"Better for your humility."  he smugly answered.
"I hope they don't run out of bread, " said Laura. She's very fond of bread.
After a very long time we were finally funnelling towards the blood and body of Christ.
"Do you think anyone will notice my crotch?" I said to Laura.  I'd noticed I had a significant tear in my black cordoroys.  It was what I was thinking of as we waited in line.
"No one's looking at your crotch," she whispered over her shoulder.  I didn't quite know how to take that.
I kneeled beside Tom and Laura trying to keep my legs together.
Then we were back in the pew for more singing and prayers and general Christian carrying on.  Christ has Risen. Hallelujah!
After we made for the coffee and hot cross buns in the church hall.  Tom's nurse friend Sharon kept the Christian Hot Cross buns coming.  Jesus may have given out loaves but the church has grown stingy with it's bread at Eucharist. It's just a taster. The real meals always happen after the service.
Tom introduced me to a man who wrote about the appearances of Jesus since the initial ones reported in the Bible.  I talked to him about visions for a while. Next I  was talking to another parishioner about the irony that the overwhelming persecution of Christians by communists in Russia first and now China has proved that Christianity is not the hot house flower that poor communism has proven. It's resilience was evident today.
When we drove away in Tom's jag I thought how sad that Christians, like families the world over, have so much difficulty finding the love for one another they both so clearly hold. Saint Matthews Anglican was the mystical church Tom said it was. So much energy and enthusiasm.  Like the book of C.S. Lewis I was 'Surprised by Joy".
I am thankful that despite the divisions in the church we all are Christians.  It's embarrassing that the secular courts are being called on to settle matters eclesiastical. I'm ashamed of all the clergy and bishops and arch bishops for that reversion to Henry the VIIIth and the Borgias.  The Supreme Court of Canada outlawed the Bible, for God's sake.
But that's very unChristian of me.  Christ has Risen. Hallelujah. You will know we are Christians by our Love.   At Easter we are all Christians loving.   My mom used to say that we always hurt the ones we loved because they were closest.  Sometimes it's easier to love a two headed alien than an Anglican.

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