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196: All Saints Cathedral, Edmonton, Canada
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All Saints Cathedral, Edmonton, Canada
Mystery Worshipper: Joan of Arch.
The church: All Saints Cathedral, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Denomination: Anglican Church of Canada.
The building: Revolting brick cube attached to an apartment complex and hotel. Obviously built in the late sixties. Unfortunately, sketches of its more attractive previous incarnations were displayed inside (it has been continually destroyed and rebuilt). Prettier on the inside, though lacking exterior windows.
The neighbourhood: Downtown Edmonton is pretty typical of the business district of any Canadian city: clean, lots of skyscrapers and deserted after dark.
The cast: The Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Edmonton (or as she was called later by one who helped prepare the service, "Captain by-the-Book").
What was the name of the service?
The Ordination of Priests.

How full was the building?
Moderately full. The Anglican community made a good showing, including members from the parishes of the two soon-to-be-ordained deacons. Considering that their parishes are about 1-3 hours north of Edmonton, this was a very good showing indeed.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
There was no welcome. I'm not sure if this was due to the solemn nature of the service, the personalities of the clergy present, or simply high Anglican reserve.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was more-or-less comfortable to sit on, but kneeling for 20 minutes was a real pain in the back. The pews weren't built to facilitate that cheating half kneeling, half leaning-back posture that I found necessary after a while.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quietly excited about the occasion, but not terribly friendly. I think the size of the entrance hall intimidated people – they tended to clump in little groups.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books. Everything was printed out in the service, including the hymns and the response melodies (but not the hymn melodies, blast it!).

What musical instruments were played?
There was a rather apocalyptic organ played thunderously loud by a friend of one of the ordinands, which fit in nicely with the weird but pretty wall hangings illustrating the Revelation of St John the Divine. There were also two classical guitars in duet during the eucharist, playing something excessively lovely.

Did anything distract you?
During the last half of "St Patrick's Breastplate," my companion fell victim to the lack of proscribed melody, and began to sing like a 13 year-old entering puberty. I couldn't stop laughing for the rest of the hymn.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very stiff. After all, it was an ordination by a conservative bishop in the High Anglican tradition – stiff, formal and ritualized. I think that the best indication that it was a worship for inner circle Anglicans was that the congregation wasn't given printed melodies for any hymns – you could either fake it or make an exceedingly horrid noise unto the Lord (see above).

Exactly how long was the sermon?
11 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8. She was a marvelous speaker, very down-to-earth and amusing. What brings her down to 8 is the fact that the sermon was directed solely to the ordinands (which was as it should be, of course).

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was a message of welcome to the new priests and of instruction as to the proper care of holy knowledge. At one point she referred to the modern world using humans created in God's image as "compost for the product trees of consumer society".

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The Peace was glorious. It occurred right after the consecration: we applauded the newly-consecrated priests. The attending priests left their seats and milled around among the congregation for a full five minutes. It was an enormous release of tension and I ended up with chrism on my hands. Definitely the least stiff part of the service.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The extended kneeling during the consecration made my back, legs and neck sore. I also felt shamed that in the service, I was enjoined to keep kneeling "as able." So now I'm some sort of enfeebled parishioner? Bah.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not much. There was an impressive spread of food waiting for us when we got out, so I busied myself with that for awhile. Then I was introduced to the University of Alberta Anglican Chaplain's heart-stoppingly adorable baby girl, which made people much more willing to talk to me. Example: "Are you the Chaplain's wife?" Response: "No, but this is the Chaplain's baby..."

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Marvelous and varied spread, though I was too concerned with cooing over the baby to scarf down more than a cookie or two.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3. I don't think I'd like to go to this church every Sunday. The spectacle and drama were cool, but there really isn't that much fellowship to go around.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yeah. There were a few very magical moments – during the consecration, when about 20 priests, deacons, deans and the odd canon gathered around with outstretched arms to assist the consecration of a new priest; the marking of the hands with chrism; seeing the person next to me receive the first blessing of one of the newly ordained priests (worth a plenary indulgence, don'tcha know); and the Dean's little girls running up for a hug as the Peace was concluding.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The Peace, most definitely. And I'll probably regret not getting the plenary indulgence when I had the chance.
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