Monday, March 2, 2009

Notes from England

February 28, 2009

Ash Wednesday at St. James’, Piccadilly was a curious mixture of the familiar and the discomfiting for me. The liturgy was essentially what we would offer. The music—at least the regular music of the congregation was chants led by a cantor and rehearsed before the service began. Anthems were offered by a truly superb choir called The Purcell Singers who sat in the balcony. Eucharist was celebrated with the entire congregation standing circling the altar and the blessing offered as we ’blessed each other’ by laying hands on our neighbors. At the end of the service, the presiding priest announced that anyone in the choir who wished ‘to be ashed or make their communion’ was welcome to come to the altar following the service. I felt a little like a person who has enjoyed a sumptuous dinner acknowledging that if the workers in the kitchen are hungry they may of course eat afterwards.

There was quite a lot of comment in the press about a community nurse who was suspended by the National Health Service for offering to pray with a patient. The patient reported it, not because he was uncomfortable, but he ‘thought that others might be’. The NHS eventually reversed its decision that she had violated its ‘equality and diversity code’ but not before all kinds of people (including the Bishop of Rochester). There was a great deal of huffing and puffing. My favorite silly suggestion was that Ms. Petrie’s expertise is nursing and that prayer should be left to the experts in that field. My hope is that every Christian becomes an expert in that field.

David Cameron’s son, Ian, died while I was over there. It was decidedly moving to come out of a tube station and see the headlines of The Evening Standard and a picture of the Conservative Leader with his disabled son, and to read of the Prime Minister’s sympathy from one who had also lost a child to death. Apparently Cameron is a great supporter of the National Health Service as a result of the treatment his son received over his six years of life. Good News.

The Rev’d Dr. Giles Fraser, Rector of St. Mary’s, Putney leads a vibrant parish who are dealing with budget issues not dissimilar form ours. He has the challenging job of helping his parishioners understand that ‘parish share’ is less a tax than a contribution to common mission. It represents a huge proportion of parish income and I do not envy him that work. He is looking forward to returning to Atlanta and All Saints’, and being with us again at Kanuga in the fall. His plan is to build on his presentations of last year and discuss the theme of ‘Forgiveness’.

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