Saturday, 18 January 2014

St Philip's Anglican Church Eastwood

9 am service

Service Type: Family Service
Worship Leader: Chris Burgess
Numbers: 70-80
Demographic: a  range of ages and cultures despite the holiday season, but generally plenty of older people.
The building: The service was taken in the traditional church building, stone, stained-glass, steeple, and hard brown wooden pews. 
The leadership: The leadership of the service was oddly difficult to discern. There were no robes worn or distinctive clergy dress. Rev. Burgess seemed to be leading the early part of the service, and the rector was sitting in the pews and came forward to conduct the holy communion in the second part of the service. 
Liturgical Form and Flow: The opening had an informal welcome, a printed sheet of the order of service was reproduced on the overhead screen. first, an opening traditional hymn (organ accompanying), then pre-written prayer, kids talk, then notices, gospel, creed, intercessions, second reading from Genesis 12, then bible talk (sermon), lord's supper, closing hymn ( with Collection), then final prayer.
Readings: The Readings of Scripture were John 12 (palm Sunday reading) and then Genesis 12.
Sermon: Chris Burgess came forward from the congregation in suit and tie to preach. Sermon was 27 minutes. The sermon, called a bible talk, was exactly that. The preacher worked through Genesis and exodus, while people in pews followed the texts in their pew bibles. 7/10.
The Holy Communion: The Rector came forward in smart casual dress and said the great thanksgiving prayer over the elements. Then we were invited forward to traditional altar rails to take communion. I filed up in my turn and found at the steps of the sanctuary trays of little cups - one tray labelled 'grape juice' another 'wine'. I took the wine only to find i had the option of the chalice when i got to the rails. I received the bread, and then administered my own wine and returned to my seat. Essentially, there were three options for taking communion, cup of wine, cup of juice, chalice of wine.After the Service: I was welcomed and spoken to by a number of laity. The Rector made a personal approach to speak with me, and spoke to me for some time. 

Comments and Commendations about this community 

1. This community has made an effort to be all things to all people. The three options at communion is one example this hybrid methodology. When I asked the Rector why the grape juice was offered, he told me it was in response to the many p plate drivers amongst their younger members who cannot have any alcohol if they are driving. this seems like a valid pastoral response, but in reality i think it is a lazy response. Why not get them to car pool and abstain from taking the wine if they are driving. The Church allows for taking communion in one kind. This generation thinks it is the first one to deal with pastoral concerns over alcohol. It is not. The church has adjusted its practice in the past without introducing grape juice, but somehow Sydney Diocese has decided to rework a 400 year old solution. In reality, the use of grape juice, which is a Sydney Diocese amendment to the tradition, is really a political statement and demonstrates their'reformed' anti-catholic practices. I think Eastwood's practice might be dressed up well to sound like pastoral care, but is actually showing the political stripe of the Diocese. I would love to ask the Parish if they encourage their young drivers to take the wine after they receive their full licence.
2.  I'd also like to ask why they use little cups as an option for the wine. If they say its for people who are afraid of catching a bug from the common cup, this would make me deeply sad. I have researched this issue in detail and there is no evidence that a silver chalice filled with alcohol can ever transfer germs. This is the reason for the silver and the alcohol; that it is hygienic to share. it is disappointing to see a community capitulate to people's fears and complaints. 
3. This community did read a gospel passage, which I found heartening, but from the palm Sunday gospel. This made no sense in the liturgy and was never referred to in the preaching. I'm amazed that these evangelical churches have jettisoned the psalm. The psalms were Jesus' own prayer book, and the gospels tell us Jesus quoted from them often in his teaching. The Anglican church has made it part of its prayer life for four hundred years, but the Sydney bible- based churches have decided not to bother. Disappointing.
4. The building and furnishings were traditional, which made me feel at home. This community seems to value their heritage in the way they look after their lovely buildings and traditional pews and stained-glass windows. The grounds were also immaculate and give the impression of a much loved venue.
5. The lack of robes and clergy collars and other normal worship garments was disappointing and disorienting. with no distinctive dress, it was hard to tell who were clergy, who were leading various parts of the service and how we are to understand their leadership. If clergy, we know they are learned and pastorally accountable. If laity, then maybe effusive and expressing personal faith and experience. I found confusing not to know who was leading what parts of the service and who they were. Robes and collars let the community know who is a leader and that they have training or learning that enables them to lead a particular part of the liturgy. 
6. The sense of liturgy. The flow of the worship was pretty good, but I must confess that their lack of attention to the prayer life, meant there was no lord's prayer and no confession, both which are mandatory for Eucharistic Worship. the omission of confession is particularly poor practice. 


SCORECARD

Welcome: 4/5
liturgical sense: 5/10
Music: 3/10
Technology Use: 2/5
Sacramental aptitude: 6/10
Building look and comfort: 4/5
Children Friendly: 3/5Anglican-like Worship: 5/10
OVERALL: 32/60 OR 53%

Reasoning: Too many changes to traditional liturgy that means the readings were disconnected, essential elements of worship were missing, and grape juice is being used really because it is desperately trying to be protestant rather than a proper expression of faith. no collars for clergy or robes meant it was hard to discern the leaders and their place in the community. This unfortunately, is a Diocesan stupidity which the parish is reproducing. 
John Gumbley

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