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Church Cathedral, Montreal, Québec, Canada
Church Cathedral, Montreal, Québec, Canada.
of Canada, Diocese
An imposing neo-Gothic building, the work of the 19th century
Gothic revivalist Frank Wills, who designed dozens of churches
in Canada and the United States. Wills did not live to see the
completion of his project, which was finished in 1859 and consecrated
in 1867. It soon became apparent that the soft ground could
not fully support the cathedral's weight, and by the early 20th
century the stone tower had leaned noticeably and had to be
demolished. A new foundation was poured in 1939-40 and a new
aluminum tower erected. In the late 1980s an underground office
and shopping complex were built beneath the cathedral, which
had to be supported on stilts during the construction.
This is a cathedral that has a parish community, with emphasis
on social action and justice. There is an active Amnesty International
group, and there was an update during the notices about amnesty
prisoners who had recently been released. The cathedral also
advertises its support of fair trade, and there is a kiosk every
third Sunday. It is also the regimental church of the Canadian
Christ Church Cathedral is located on Saint Catherine Street,
the primary commercial artery of downtown Montreal. There is
little residential accommodation in the local area.
Presider: The Revd Rhonda Waters, associate priest. Preacher:
the Revd Dr Donald Boisvert, curate. There was also a serving
team of crucifer, acolytes, master of ceremonies, and verger.
The date & time:
Sunday, 13 October 2013, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Sung Eucharist for Harvest Thanksgiving.
How full was the building?
It's a large building, but a goodly number of the congregation
sat toward the front, with a smattering down the rest of the
nave and in the side aisles. Not counting clergy, servers or
choir, there were about 50 at the start of the service, rising
to about 80 in the middle, and 60 at the end.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A smile and a nod from the person who handed me a hymn book.
The entrance to the cathedral was quite cluttered with people
chatting, making it difficult to get in.
Was your pew comfortable?
I have sat in worse pews but not many. Typical of its era: shortish
seat, upright back and not much leg room.
How would you describe the pre-service
When I arrived, a member of the choir was rehearsing the introit
for the service. This was followed by quiet, with some chattering
until the organ prelude started up just before 10.00am.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Bon jour, good morning, and welcome to visitors
and those here for the first time."
What books did the congregation use during the
We were handed a service sheet with all the words for the service
and hymn numbers: English on one side of the page and French
on the other. Common Praise hymn book.
What musical instruments
Organ, a four-manual mechanical key and stop instrument by Karl
Wilhelm, Inc. of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec. And oh my, was
it ever played read on!
Did anything distract
Lots! The procession was a veritable parade, with the choir
detaching themselves and splitting in half to return to the
back, one half up the north side aisle and the other half up
the south side aisle. There was a sort of very odd strumming
of strings in the middle of each verse of the psalm. The period
of silence following the sermon was heralded by the ringing
of a bell, and we knew when the two minutes were up as the bell
rang again! The autumnal flowers at the end of the pews kept
getting knocked off and having to be picked up and reattached.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
I think "or what" best describes it. It tried to be traditional
but never really hit the mark. This was harvest thanksgiving,
but only the collect prayer focused on harvest. During the offertory
procession, a basket was carried up that had a plastic bag hanging
out of the top of it, with two tins and a can or sardines. Communion
was like being herded in a cattle market not reverential
or dignified at all!
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
5 The Revd Dr Donald Boisvert's style was very dead-pan.
He described how lepers were isolated from society in the Middle
Ages, a fate tantamount to death and burial.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The readings (2 Kings 5:1-14 Naaman is healed of leprosy;
and Luke 17:11-17 Jesus heals ten men of leprosy) had
featured lepers, and so the sermon had leprosy as its theme.
How brave Jesus was in associating with lepers. He deliberately
reached out to them to illustrate the life-altering nature of
divine forgiveness. We still have outsiders among us today,
and when we ignore them, we psychologically bury them. We have
so much to be grateful for. We need to listen to the voices
outside. (Interestingly, the verger chucked out one of the homeless
who came in at the end of the service asking for money!)
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
Not much, I'm afraid, but if I had to find one thing, it was
the intercessions: well written, clear, concise, and a time
of quiet and prayerfulness.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The music. Every hymn was preceded by a ridiculous (in my opinion)
introduction and, even worse, improvisation between verses.
The organ is meant to accompany the singing and add to the worship;
this was just a take-over. The mass setting was a relatively
modern one, which I didn't find uplifting at any point. I love
music and I love singing, but this was torture.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
I hung around and I hung around some more. The Revd Mrs Waters
was standing at the door chatting with two members of the choir;
none of them had even a good-bye for the visitor. I wandered
off to the baptistery for a coffee.
How would you describe the after-service
I guess about 20 people had gone for coffee. It all seemed a
bit of a bun fight, but I finally realised I was queuing at
the wrong end of the table. I eventually managed to get myself
to the urn and pour a cup of coffee (very nice and hot and fair-traded).
I then stood around some more and noticed others standing on
their own. At length I left, having chatted with no one.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 I would go back one more time if I was looking for
a church in Montreal, in case this was not a typical Sunday.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
No, I felt terrible.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
What an unfriendly place this was, and being defeated by the organ.
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