Fishy Liturgy?

Many thanks to a 30DAYs reader from Scotland for sending us a pew sheet from S.Peter’s Episcopal Church in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. His attention had at first been arrested by the announcement that, on 1st September, Creationtide would begin. Apparently, it would be incorporating the Feast of S.Francis on 4 October – ‘a saint closely associated with the theology of nature’ – and would conclude with the parish’s Harvest Festival. Predictably enough, Creationtide is evidently ‘a time to celebrate God the Creator (as opposed the God the Father, presumably?); it is a time to give thanks for the gifts of creation, to repent of our misuse of them, and to begin to amend our lives in a way which honours the Creator by becoming co-creators instead of exploiters . . . This year’s theme for Creationtide is ‘The Oceans’. On the back of this newsletter you’ll find templates of sea creatures. Please take it home with you, cut them out and decorate them with drawings, poems and Bible verses that tell of God’s marvellous creation. On the first Sunday of September we will decorate the church with them to remind us of God’s reliance on us to be good stewards of the sea.’ Well, the sea creature templates are certainly quite, er, striking

And another one to try out

Our Scottish correspondent was just about to colour in his sea creature templates, using his best golden crayon (think ‘batter’), when he spotted that there was more! At 7.00 pm, on Wednesday, 12 December, there will be a Blue Christmas Service. Like many of his age, his thoughts turned immediately to the King; but not the infant Saviour on this occasion, you understand, but rather Elvis Presley:

I’ll have a blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me, etc ad nauseam.

But he was so, so very wrong! A quick Google reveals that what ‘Rev. Shona’ (now there’s a surprise) probably has in mind is as follows:

Fairly subdued lighting is helpful – there will be tears and people feel less conspicuous. Have tissues discreetly available. An Advent wreath will be needed. This can be fairly small but should be prominent. If a small group is expected and you think you can sit in a circle or horseshoe, lay out greenery in a circle and add four purple candles (though plain white will do if necessary!). Place an empty “cradle” in front of the wreath – or in the middle if you are using greenery. This could be as simple as a shoe-box covered in brown paper – remember, the manger was simple! Ensure you leave enough space for people to move between the candles towards and from it safely! You could even move the candles during the placing of the cloths. Prepare strips of cloth – about 1/2 cm wide. Cotton or similar is best – ensure that it can be written on – preferably with ballpoint or similar pen that won’t smudge. Invite people to write the names of their loved ones – or the situation causing them pain – on the strips. Some will want several strips – others may prefer to put them all on one. The cloths can then be placed in the “cradle” – people being invited to name their loved one if they wish. Gently encourage people to feel that they are praying for and supporting each other… This can create a beautiful atmosphere which may provoke more tears but which enables people to feel strengthened by the solidarity of others in similar situations. Once the cloths are in place, it can be helpful to reflect very briefly on the names and that we are entrusting them to the Child who is the Light of the World and light a fifth candle representing Christ. A taper can be lit from this and people invited to light small candles distributed around the wreath. Allow people time at the end to sit with the names and lights.

Mulled wine or punch and a few mince pies could be a kind gesture before people leave.

Me, I’ll have the mulled wine before the service, if you don’t mind.

The truth & the numbers

S.Peter’s Episcopal Church, Stornoway, is of course just one small part of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which in turn comprises seven dioceses: Aberdeen & Orkney, Argyll & the Isles, Brechin, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Galloway, Moray, Ross & Caithness and St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane. And it was with a certain degree of interest that we had a look recently at some statistics from that quarter. To be precise, the Total Attendance figures for all seven dioceses for the Feast of Christ the King, 2011. And to be even more precise, fourteen thousand, one hundred and twenty-six. Yes, that’s 14,126 – the Total Attendance on one Sunday of an entire Province of the Anglican Communion! Now, the last published statistics for the number of Parishes which have sought Extended Episcopal Care under the Act of Synod – Resolution C Parishes – are somewhat out of date, so let’s assume, in the interests of caution, that the 361 noted in 2008 might have shrunk to 350 today. And now let’s assume that the average Total Attendance across those parishes is just 41 each Sunday. In the vast majority, of course, it won’t be that few, but bear with us! If the average Total Attendance across the C Parishes is just 41, then more people in aggregate attend C Parishes than attend the Scottish Episcopal Church in its entirety. And the SEC’s reward is seven places at the Lambeth Conference, whilst the C Parishes have to make do with a ‘Code of Practice’! Is there any wonder it still won’t do?

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