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635: Canterbury Cathedral: the Enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury
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The Archbishop and the Gospels
Mystery Worshipper: Hermione.
The church: The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ Canterbury.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: It is surprisingly small for a cathedral, but impressive nonetheless. During the service I could only see a small part from where I was, but wandering around afterwards what struck me was the number of steps. I also got the impression that the Chair of St Augustine was wonderfully framed by the Pulpitum arch (although it was hard to tell because of the people standing there).
The church: It is arguably the focus of the Anglican Communion, certainly on an occasion like this.
The neighbourhood: Various protestors on this occasion. There was an anti-war demo on the High Street and when I went in a few anti-Rowan people, although there were also a couple of posters saying "Thank God for Rowan". I believe the anti-Rowan protest grew later.
The cast: Many. The Very Rev. Robert Andrew Willis, Dean of Canterbury had a lot to do but was assisted by many others: the Choir of Canterbury Cathedral; the Principal Registrar of the Province read the mandate; the Most Rev. David Hope, Archbishop of York adminstered the Declaration of Assent; The Rev. Esme Beswick, President of Churches together in England read the Old Testament lesson; the Most Rev. Cormac Murphy O'Connor, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, read the New Testament lesson; Rachel Grey, soprano, and Bethan Williams, harpist, sang and played; the Ven. Patrick Alexander Sidney Evans, Archdeacon of Canterbury, inducted Rowan Williams into the possession of the Archbishopric of Canterbury; Fritti performed an African song; the Choir of St Woolos Cathedral, Newport, sang; the Most Rev. Rowan Douglas Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, preached among other things; the Rev. Joel Edwards, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance UK and Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain, representing the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, led us in part of the Methodist Covenant service; and the Most Rev. John Paterson, Presiding Bishop of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Chairman of the Anglican Consulatative Council, the Rev. Anthony Burnham, Moderator of the Free Churches Group, and Miss Sylvia Scar, representing the Laity of the Church in Wales, led the intercessions. Then there were assorted people in a great number of processions, some of whom had wonderful titles like Vesturur and Ostarius. I think we had every Bishop from England and Wales there and many more besides.
What was the name of the service?
The Enthronement of the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Douglas Williams, the Feast of George Herbert, Priest, Poet, 1633, 27 February 2003 at 3 o'clock.

How full was the building?
Bulging, although there were some places in which extra seats could have been fitted. I heard 2,500 mentioned as a figure.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Various stewards directed me to my seat. The one in charge of our section was very friendly, commenting that I was his first visitor, and then chatting to me a bit later on, telling me about the history of where we were, which was in front of Becket's Crown, some way behind the Chair of St Augustine.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was a wooden wicker chair and was surprisingly comfortable, which is just as well as I was sat in it for about four hours all told (although the service itself had a lot of standing too).

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
When I got there it was very quiet, but I was the first in my section. Once the cathedral started filling up, people were chatting quietly, which was friendly, as we asked each other from whence we had come, but I was disappointed that people continued even once the choir began singing.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
The first spoken words to the whole congregation were, "Welcome to this ancient Cathedral Church of Christ in Canterbury. Welcome to those who have gathered here and to those of you who join us in your homes from all over the world as we come to welcome our new Archbishop into his Cathedral and to enthrone him in the chair of St Augustine, who brought the faith of Christ to this land." The choir had sung various pieces before this (which I couldn't hear very well) and we'd sung two hymns: "Immortal, Invisible" and "Christ is made the sure foundation".

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A large booklet which contain all we needed and which was sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and African drums.

Did anything distract you?
The television: both the camera, which was near where I was sitting, and watching the service on a monitor. It felt very odd being at the event and watching it on TV at the same time and I couldn't watch the choir because of the lack of synchronicity between the picture and what I was hearing. The TV did mean that I could see everything that was going on, though, which was good. Also trying to work out who Terry Waite was; wondering why Clare Short wasn't singing; being amused by the implied filioque of the hymn, "Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire" ("Teach us to know the Father, Son, and thee, of Both, to be but one") – especially as we were having the Nicene Creed "in its original form, as agreed within the Undivided Church in the fourth century"; and wondering how a verger managed to walk past twice in the same direction.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was formal on the whole, but not dull formal, and there were some more exuberant touches. It was decidedly clappy at times.

Photo: James Rosenthal/Anglican World

Exactly how long was the sermon?
21 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Putting Archbishop Rowan into a nutshell is difficult, as he covered a lot of ground in those 21 minutes. He began with the idea of secrets, saying that many people would flee if someone told them "all is discovered, flee at once," and this theme ran through the sermon. He talked about the need for confidence, courage, imagination and faithfulness in our proclamation of the gospel.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Singing Cwm Rhondda after the Covenant Prayer. I nearly said the prayer itself, but though incredibly powerful, I'm not sure heavenly is the right adjective for it. My one disappointment was that the Welsh words to Cwm Rhondda weren't in the order of service, although apparently some people did sing it in Welsh, but unfortunately I don't know the Welsh words well enough.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The clapping was the only thing which came close. It was bad enough when we were directed to clap to welcome the Archbishop, but applauding the African dancers irritated me. Applause seems to me to bring the attention to the performers and away from God. As for the clapping which began in the nave as Archbishop Rowan processed out, I really don't understand why one claps as someone else goes past.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It wasn't really that sort of service. Most people were visiting! I wandered round the cathedral for a while and then went outside and ate my lunch (at 5pm, but I'd forgotten to eat before I went in at 1pm). I saw various people: a local vicar, Brother Paolo from Taize, Terry Waite. I can't have looked too lost as someone asked me where the something hall was. I eventually wandered back to the station, where the after service socialising continued. That London train was full of bishops, deans and other clerics, as well as random laity. People were chatty.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I wasn't important enough to have been invited to tea, although according a friend from the train it was disappointing – just a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Though they did get a free copy of the Church Times!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – I somehow don't think that this was representative. I say 5 because I wouldn't want services like this every week, great though they are on occasion.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it was great. It also made me proud to be an Anglican, despite all the problems with the Church of England.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I'm not sure I can pin it down to one. Hopefully it's an experience I'll remember for a long time. After all, I can say, "I was there".

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