Sunday, December 18, 2011

St. James Anglican Church, Vancouver, Dec. 18, 2011 - 4th Advent Sunday

"You know we'd be able to make it to church on time if we skipped our morning baths and showers," I told her.
"I'm not going to do that. I feel awful when I'm not clean." she replied.
"But we're already washed," I reminded her. Referring to our baptisms, of course.  That which differentiated us from the 'unwashed".
"I'm still not going to church dirty," she answered
"What's the use of confession then" I said.  She's the kind of girl who cleans up before the cleaning lady comes whereas I'm more likely to throw a bachelor party the night before the cleaners are due.
We both were happty to arrive in time for the sermon by Father Mark Greenaway-Robbins. With my Baptist background, church is all about the sermon.  That and the gospel singing and bible readings, of course.  Father Mark though doesn't beat us up with descriptions of hellfire and damnation so I'm never really sure I've heard a sermon. Growing up in an evangelical Baptist congregation I remember well the minister frothing at the mouth and painting glorious pictures of hell in such detail my father wondered if he knew more of that place than the destination where we were supposed to be heading.
Father Mark's sermons are  mostly inspiring, informative and transcendent.  He's even amusing at times.  My friend, Laura likes his sermons immensely but given her Catholic background, she's only there for the wafer, if the truth be told.  Just give a Catholic the body of Christ and they'd be happy. If ever the Catholics and Jehovah Witnesses got together they'd have drive through wafer's for sure to serve the need of busy Christians belonging to the 'wealth and health' evangelical factions.
St. James is afar more traditional Anglo Catholic. Father Mark's sermon touched on trust in God wisdom and love.   Father Mark actually talked about the 'communion of saints' from the creed and prayer to Mary. Quite revolutionary thoughts for protestants but well in the mainstream of the mystical meditation revival in today's church.  Televangelists can go on and on about prayer such that Christians decades back had to go to India to learn about meditation. Today the 'relationship with God' is central to the spiritual journney of Christians.  We gather together in church  to share peace.  Yet our real spiritual journeys are in the work weeks between these oasis of gathering in the desert of modern materialist consumer society.
Christmas is a time of celebration. Advent tells us that Jesus is coming.  Hallelujah.
After the service we joined dozens of other parishioners for coffee, tea and cake, the after church fellowship tradition.  Laura borrowed a St. Thomas a Kempis book from the library and I kept Gilbert in chec. He was so excited to meet Bear and Dido, a couple of other church going dogs, that I was terrifed he'd want to express himself in piss elation.   While Laura conversed with Elizabeth, Phil and I waxed poetic about world affairs and spiritual matters.  Out of nowhere Karen appeared with Mathias and there were hugs all round.  Mathias is walking now but Laura and I remember his baptism when he wasn't much bigger than a flesh formed idea.
Father Mark had in church today welcomed a 9 day old baby bringing the family to the front where we applauded them all for being there together so soon after such a monumentous occasion.  The choir sang Emmanuel with especially fine voices.
And later Laura and I walked back to the car with Gilbert , all of us feeling just a little bit IMG 0319 closer.
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