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2609: St Bartholomew's, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

St Bartholomew, Toronto
Mystery Worshipper: Rorate.
The church: St Bartholomew's, Regent Park, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Denomination: Anglican Church of Canada.
The building: St Bart's had originally been built at another location in 1873, and was physically moved to its present location in 1910. It is a simple brick building. Once in the door, one finds a staircase to climb up to the main body of the church. It has a very traditional layout, focusing on the high altar, with the Lady chapel to the side. The organ is in a gallery at the back of the church.
The church: Quoting from their website: "At St Bart's you will experience liturgy that exemplifies the historic Anglo-Catholic tradition, characterised by the use of incense, bells and formal liturgical worship." They are very much involved in outreach through a food bank, a breakfast club, an after-school club, and a Christmas hamper programme.
The neighbourhood: The Regent Park district of Toronto was at one time a slum area, and in the late 1940s it gave rise to Canada's oldest and largest social housing project. To some extent this demographic still exists, but there are signs of an up-and-coming area, with a condominium being built right across the street from the church.
The cast: The Revd Dr Walter Hannam, vicar, assisted by two acolytes and a thurifer who doubled as master of ceremonies.
The date & time: Sunday, 6 October 2013, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Sung Mass (Book of Common Prayer).

How full was the building?
Twenty-seven or thereabouts, dotted around the pews, plus a large standard poodle called Oliver (after Cromwell). I would guess that the church could hold at least 150.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A lady gave a nod and a hello as she handed me the bulletin for the day. The same lady later came up to me in the pew, as she hadn't given me the card with the Angelus on it, and tried to explain when and why I needed it.

Was your pew comfortable?
Very ordinary. Not very comfortable, but I have experienced a lot worse.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
When I arrived the choir were rehearsing, but as soon as they had finished the church was silent, apart from the organ playing in the background.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, with my whole heart" (the introit, Psalm 138). It was intoned by a member of the choir, after which we all joined in singing it antiphonally. The first spoken words were the priest saying the collect for purity as he approached the altar.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
We had the service sheet that was handed out at the door, which had the outline of the service and the page numbers from the Prayer Book, the hymn numbers (which were in the wrong order), and the words for both the introit and gradual psalms. We also used the 1662 Canadian Book of Common Prayer and The English Hymnal plus the Angelus card as already mentioned. There was also a weekly news sheets from the cathedral (the vicar is also associate priest at the cathedral).

What musical instruments were played?
The organ, plus a trumpet that accompanied the last hymn.

Did anything distract you?
For a church that places such high value on ceremonial, there were several things they appeared to get wrong. For example, the candles were lit from the wrong side first. The MC could certainly have found a cassock that fit – it was about six inches too short and wasn't buttoned up at the bottom or around his belly! And although I like birettas, I am never quite sure about them – Father preached with his on, but perhaps he should have removed it during the procession?

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
This was Anglo-Catholic: bells, smells, the lot. And it was an eastward facing celebration, with not a hint of a nave altar anywhere. Lots of ceremony: biretta off and back on again at the mention of Jesus' name; much bustle about the altar. We sang all eight verses of "When morning gilds the skies" as the offertory hymn and still needed some organ improvisation while the bread and wine were prepared, the altar, clergy and congo censed, and lavabo performed.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Whenever Father Hannam wanted to make a point, he would make a gesture with his hands as if he were conducting an orchestra. For me, his sermon was a bit "high-flying" at times, going over my head, but he did make some excellent points.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The different personas that people adopt. Some people feel they always have to reinvent themselves, and have a need for constant control. Some people want to be seen as stable, dependable and together, while others at the other end of the spectrum want to seem spontaneous and unconventional. Why are we afraid of who we really are? We find no rest in a bed where control slips away, where we are alienated from the life for which we were created by God. Jesus makes us get up and walk as new beings after the likeness of God.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The choir were excellent, a truly lovely sound, even if they did sing the gradual psalm before the reading of the epistle.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The church is on a busy street, and the traffic going along it was an unavoidable distraction. I also don't like clapping at the end of the organ postlude.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Even before I got out of my pew, a lovely lady had ventured over to say hello and that there was coffee downstairs. On my way out of the main church, one of the churchwardens greeted me with a handshake. The vicar spotted me as a newcomer and introduced himself.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was a spread of food laid on, but I only went for the coffee. It was delicious, but I couldn't say if it was fair trade. And here again I was approached by a very friendly parishioner with whom I had a long chat.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – I like Anglo-Catholic worship, I like Prayer Book worship. But I am not very keen on the two together. If this were my parish church I would certainly support it.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes very much so. All in all it was a very prayerful service with a great sense of spirituality about it.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
All eight verses of "When morning gilds the skies" not lasting long enough.
 
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