|583: St James, Cleveland, Ohio, USA|
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Mystery Worshipper: Abed-Nego.
The church: St James, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
Denomination: Anglican Catholic.
The building: A small, blackened, Victorian exterior gives way to a lovely, well-lit sanctuary with all kinds of carefully considered details. Surprisingly for a building which probably seats about 120 souls, there are five shrines, the largest of which is dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham. The sanctuary has a basilica-like lay-out, though what would be the gospel-side opening is in fact a small lady chapel. The whole is elegantly constructed from oak, and is pleasingly proportioned.
The church: A largely white congregation embraces all ages, though senior citizens dominate their number. I learned at the coffee hour that many had travelled great distances to be there.
The neighbourhood: St James is located in a rather derelict run-down part of the east side of Cleveland not far from downtown. There are obvious and concerted efforts being made to upgrade this area of the city.
The cast: Fr. Cyril K. Crume, Rector and celebrant; Fr. Thomas W. Greenlee, curate; Louis W. Hill, organist.
What was the name of the service?
Sung mass for the third Sunday after trinity.
How full was the building?
It was about one-third full, though since the building is quite intimate, it felt pretty well populated.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No greeters here, I'm afraid. The service bulletins were set out on a table near the entrance; so it was time to take care of myself and head towards a pew. However, I had gotten a sort of welcome as I'd left the car park. "You've come to the right place here!" exclaimed an enthusiastic congregant.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was comfortable enough, though the epistle and the sermon were the only opportunities to actually sit down during the mass. Under such circumstances, I feel that tip-up kneelers are best, and I was not disappointed.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Silent, reverential with a sense of keen anticipation.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, O Lord, and I shall be clean."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Anglican Missal, Book of Common Prayer,1928 Hymnal, 1940 English Hymnal (words only).
What musical instruments were played?
An organ provided sturdy accompaniments for some enthusiastic congregational singing.
Did anything distract you?
The detail-oriented acolyte who carried out all the bows and breast-beatings during the preparation for the mass, even though distance must have rendered the proceedings inaudible to him. And the celebrant's lacy alb which required some discreet re-hitchings at waist level from time to time.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
This is very formal worship indeed. No detail of ritual is overlooked. Some years ago I heard a sermon by the Right Rev. Barry Valentine at St Paul's, Washington, in which he warned his listeners against the trap of "worshipping the worship". I wonder if a similar admonishment might be in order here in St James.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Fr. Crume has an easy-going, relaxed style, from the fireside chat school of preaching. He did not use notes.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He took a couple of words from the dies irae as the basis of some thoughts on God's continual seeking for man. With "tantus labor" (so much work) in mind, he retraced God's striving to draw His creation back to Himself, citing the choice of David and Christ on the cross as examples. This "tantus labor" extended to more recent times and to places where "the full faith" is practised. He drew attention to the work of St James' church with its daily masses and the continuous presence since 1890 of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar of the church. He closed on a note of thankfulness that, despite the vicissitudes of the past century, St James was still a place where the full faith is practised.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The beautifully intoned Gregorian mass by a seven-strong choir of men and women.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The strange intoning of the epistle on a high-pitched monotone. The cantor extended the last syllable of each phrase to the point at which his his voice began to quiver. I found myself biting into my lower lip. Also rather odd was the celebrant's over-long lacy alb which was obviously several sizes too big.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't have to wait. An invitation to coffee hour in the bulletin was offered again from the pulpit, and reiterated by the rector as I shook his hand at the door. I accepted.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Extensive. Fasting before mass is the rule with this congregation. And eating after it is just as fervently practised. There was tea (hot or iced), coffee, couscous (is this a first?), and lots of cakes and home-made cookies. My only quible: after so much time and trouble, why resort to non-degradable, styrofoam cups?
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 If I lived in Cleveland, I think I would be drawn by the devoutness and friendliness of this lovely little church.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The care lavished by this small congregation on their worship. It must take a lot of prayerful energy and attention to detail to produce such a complex act of worship. These good folk are determined to do things right. What's more, they really do.