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|1530: St John
the Evangelist, Montréal, Québec, Canada
St John the Evangelist,
Montréal, Québec, Canada.
Church of Canada.
The building is described in great detail on
their website. It is known locally for its distinctive
red roof. The interior is notable for the absence of pews, and
follows the guidelines of the Cambridge Ecclesiological Society,
which advocated a return to the medieval church style in all
This is Montréalís premier traditional Anglo-Catholic parish.
Established in 1861 and faithful to the principles of the Oxford
Movement right from the start, it was the first Anglo-Catholic
parish in Canada to celebrate daily mass and to reserve the
Blessed Sacrament. It was also the first Anglican parish in
Montréal not to rent pews. In the late 1960s they experimented
with modern innovations such as free-standing altars, westward
celebrations and contemporary language rites, but in the end
rejected them as detrimental to parish life.
The church is situated in downtown Montréal, behind Place-des-Arts,
the city's performing arts centre, and very close to the strip
of hotels along Sherbrooke Street, where the Dowager Liturgy
Queen and I were staying. The neighbourhood is not a residential
one, and thus does not provide much of a geographical parish.
The rector, the Revd Keith Schmidt, SSC, was the celebrant and
homilist. He was assisted by a deacon and subdeacon, neither
of whom was identified. The sacred ministers were vested in
the most beautiful high mass set of gold with blue orphreys.
The crucifer wore a tunicle and the other servers wore tasteful
The date & time:
Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady: the Falling Asleep of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, Wednesday, 15 August 2007, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The nave was less than half full. We could easily have sat in
the quire since there was no choir for the summer.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
An elderly gentleman handed us each a Book of Common Prayer
(Canadian 1959/1962) and an English Hymnal, as
well as a leaflet with the propers of the mass and some history
of the day's feast. An early tradition, it was expunged from
the 1549 Prayer Book, restored in 1959 as a black-letter
day under the title "The Falling Asleep of the Blessed
Virgin Mary," and included in the Book of Alternative
Services (no copy of which was to be found in the church)
as "St Mary the Virgin," a holy day.
Was your pew comfortable?
We were seated in chairs with kneelers on the backs of them.
They were reasonably comfortable for sitting, but there wasnít
enough room underneath them to tuck my legs in order to do the
"Anglican crouch" while kneeling.
How would you describe the pre-service
It was very quiet, which was not surprising given the dearth of people.
What were the exact opening words of the
Well, now, it was so far into the mass before anything was spoken.
During the entrance hymn, the sanctuary party appeared to be
saying some form of the prayers at the foot of the altar. They
turned, bowed, and struck their breasts as prescribed by the
rubrics of the Confiteor. Then an introit was sung, followed
by the Kyrie, Gloria, and collect. The first clearly audible
spoken words were the first lesson, which was read in French.
What books did the congregation use during the
A bilingual mass book, based on the 1959 Canadian BCP, with
interpolations. Of note were the instructions for communion,
the most severe I have ever seen in an Anglican church. Non-Anglicans
were invited to receive the eucharist provided not only that
they were validly baptised (the standard criterion in the Anglican
Church of Canada) but also communicants in their own churches,
believers in the real presence, and properly prepared.
What musical instruments
A fine pipe organ in the loft, the work of the distinguished
Canadian firm Hellmuth Wolff et Associés. The church's
website describes the organ in
great detail. The organist played wonderfully.
Did anything distract
There seemed to be no common custom regarding posture. At any
given time, some were standing and some kneeling.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Certainly by Canadian standards, this was nosebleed high. The
mass was celebrated eastward, which is quite rare in Canada,
and not universal even amongst Anglo-Catholics. It was also
(and it pains me to admit this) the first occasion that I have
seen birettas worn. Even then, they were only worn as the chancel
party entered and exited. The propers were sung responsively
to plainsong by cantor and congregation, and were evidently
taken from one of the books in the English Missal family.
The collect spoke naughtily (as I don't think the words were
those of the authorised province liturgy) of Maryís being "taken
up body and soul." It was not clear what lectionary was
being used. The gospel (but not the epistle) was chanted.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Father Schmidt was rather historically didactic but
I appreciated hearing some background and he was not dry. I
was also thankful for the brevity.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Expanding on the historical note in the leaflet, he briefly
outlined the history of the development of the Assumption as
a devotion as well as a doctrine. Maryís role in the Incarnation
and the grace bestowed upon her make her prototypical of the
salvation promised to us. We are all prepared a spiritual body,
the seed of which is planted at baptism, but in the case of
Mary, she was reunited in her natural body with her Son.
Which part of the service was like being in
The organ music was uplifting, and there was just enough incense used.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The lack of a choir was disappointing. I realise it was summer
but I had hoped that they would make a special appearance for
such a festal day. Also, I hoped that the Angelus might be sung
(something I have never witnessed) but it was merely said. The
sanctuary was distant and what was spoken there was inaudible.
Finally, the communion wine that became via consecration the
Most Precious Blood tasted, I'm afraid, like turpentine! What
is it with Anglo-Catholics and white wine?
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
No one approached me. Ironically, the rector whizzed by me to
greet some other newcomers. I was beginning to give up. Finally,
the rector noticed me and asked if I was visiting from out of
town. I replied that I was. Neither of us made any further effort
at small talk. By that time the main door was being locked,
and so he helped me find a side door.
How would you describe the after-service
I was unable to stay, but noticed that there was a cold buffet
supper served. Coffee appeared to be the only beverage, but
there was a respectable spread of pasta salads, cold cuts and
bread, and other picnic-type items.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 If I were to live in Montréal (and it's one place
I'm considering going on a student exchange) I would certainly
become a regular here.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely. It was just the kind of other-worldly, majestic
liturgy that made me want to become an Anglican.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The splendid gold and blue high mass set, and my first sighting
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