I used a day of leave to experience communion in a tradition quite different to that which I am accustomed, so I took myself off to the 10 am Choral Eucharist at St Georges Cathedral of the Anglican Arch Diocese of Perth, Western Australia.
I have participated in communion services of the higher liturgical traditions before, most notably at our local ecumenical Pentecost services. I was quite looking forward to cathedral pageantry and the sacred music of Bach and Handel. I was not disappointed – on the contrary there were some moments where the sacred took me by surprise.
Let me share three moments in particular:
- The reading of the gospel from Luke 17:5-10. I knew how this was to be done, with the bible carried aloft to the midst of the congregation with organ fanfare and choral alleluias. The whole congtregation stands in expectancy of the words to be heard. The cantor chanted the words of the passage, and it was as if I heard them anew. It was a thin moment.
- The address by The Reverend Bill Sykes, Chaplain Emeritus and Fellow of University College, Oxford. It was one of the best sermons I’ve heard in a long time (not that I hear many – I’m usually dishing them out!). He was speaking to the gospel text “Increase our faith” and described how he answered a question asked of him by a very intellectual post grad student – “What do you believe?” It was one of the most straightforward and comprehensive yet rational evangelistic presentations I have encountered. He went on to explain how he has set up thirty reflection groups throughout Oxford that explore a range from 220 issues pertaining to faith and life. Apparently the reflections, designed for multi-faith discussions, are in his book, The eternal vision: the ultimate collection of spiritual quotations. (Mental note to get a copy).
- The communion service. The pew sheet says, “We break bread for the whole world. We invite all who seek God and are drawn to Christ, and all who walk the way of faith to come forward to receive communion or a blessing.” The Open Table in a high liturgical tradition suddenly melded with my more familiar homely table in the free church restorationist tradition.
World Communion Sunday. If you are participating in a communion service somewhere in the world today, may the peace of Christ be with you!