It was a cold February morning when I first stepped in to St Luke’s Church to begin my 7 weeks with you. I’d taken a sabbatical from my usual church in order to gain some experience of other traditions and give myself some space to think about where God might be calling me in the future… Lent at St Luke’s was the first part of that sabbatical.
I had no real idea what to expect, though I knew it was likely to be very different from my evangelical background. However, ‘different’ doesn’t even begin to describe it! Despite many years in and around churches, I discovered that I was completely ignorant of a large slice of Anglicanism. I’d never come across an Angelus, never genuflected, never sung in plainsong, never heard a Gospel reading chanted or had holy water used in a penitent moment. As far as I was concerned, churches stayed the same colour throughout the year… and the only time I’d heard a Hail Mary was when my second cousin was baptised in Eire.
It’s probably fair to say that I spent my first service in a state of mild confusion and shock. But over the weeks, with a few helping hands, the fog cleared and I came to thoroughly enjoy my time at St Luke’s.
What struck me while l was with you? Well, five main things I think:
· The friendliness. Without doubt, St Luke’s is the most welcoming church I have ever spent time in. Thank you for being so encouraging and for never over-stepping the mark and becoming pressurising.
· The reverence. I think I have learnt a great deal about the sovereignty and holiness of God while with you. The liturgy and music consistently points to an almighty God who is to be treated with awe and that is so helpful.
· The history. It’s been great to be part of a service where you genuinely feel part of a historical faith – it’s been very useful to learn more of the traditions of the church and hear sermons that talk about inspirational Christians from the past. Though, it did also strike me that your sermons are quite short … I’m afraid us evangelicals like our 30-minute sermons (the Bible is so exciting and so worth delving into in detail!!)
· The children. They seem so very happy and relaxed in church – that’s always an encouraging sign. And it’s good to see them involved – even toddlers bringing up the offering.
· And on a more flippant note… The muscles. It’s official, Anglo-Catholics have stronger legs than evangelicals. The day after I first did stations of the cross, I limped round the office!
I still have some thinking and reflecting to do on certain aspects of your tradition – but I have come to respect and love a great deal of it. Every Sunday, I have come away from St Luke’s feeling content and encouraged. And more importantly (because church is not just about making us feel good) I have come away from the services wanting to know God better and serve him more faithfully day by day. I hope and pray that what I experienced in my seven weeks in the parish, is what you experience throughout the year.
Thank you again for welcoming me over the past few weeks. I will continue praying for the work of your parish. And look forward to sneaking back to join you every once in while!