So, yesterday was the Feast of the Epiphany and, as a good catholic parish,we celebrated with a Festival Eucharist last night...Choir. Procession. Incense. The Works.
The only thing lacking was about two-thirds of the regular Sunday congregation...who will doubtless complain voluably tomorrow that they've missed out on a good festival, and haven't got to sing "As with gladness men of old". It's a real dilemma, whether to celebrate the feasts on the right date (which, of course, we do without debate in the case of Ash Wednesday or Ascension Day), knowing that it will simply not occurr to many people that they could even consider appearing,- or to compromise with the calendar (in the face of the parish's claims to be "Traditional Catholic") and suit the majority. Then, of course, we would miss out on the feast of the Baptism of Christ tomorrow...so we seem to be doomed whatever happens. What with all the Fresh Expressions emphasis on worship outside the traditional Sunday format, it feels odd to be part of a church some of whose members cling to the "only on Sunday" routine...while liking the idea that their clergy celebrate the Eucharist regularly during the week. I really don't know what I would do, were I the vicar. It was a good experience, actually, leading worship in that church without the usual healthy numbers...We had 55 there, but they only filled the central pews (rather nice, that...no worry about people lost without trace behind pillars) so the church looked kind of empty as we processed about the place (yup, copes to the fore again!) and I felt a kind of prophetic chill. Our main Sunday congregation is on the elderly side, and unless we embrace God's vision and really concentrate on mission, there simply won't be a church here in the village in 20 years time. That might not matter, if the people of Charlton Kings are enabled to encounter God in other ways and other places,- but as someone who believes in the mixed economy of inherited and fresh expressions of church, I'd hope the inherited model could also survive to serve future generations. Hmmn....not quite sure where that's going, but thinking aloud is like that!
There was, actually, a really good feel to the service last night. Perhaps those who came were specially focussed on worship, or maybe it was just a rosy glow engendered by one of the loveliest feasts of the year, and the promise of a glass of something warming and the last communal mince pies of this Christmas tide.