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902: St George's-in-the-Pines, Banff, Alberta, Canada
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St George's-in-the-Pines, Banff, Alberta, Canada
Mystery Worshipper: Rossweisse.
The church: St George's-in-the-Pines, Banff, Alberta, Canada.
Denomination: Anglican Church of Canada.
The building: It's a dear little stone edifice of the late Victorian era, with a later parish hall built off to the side. It is notable for stained glass windows which combine conventional representations of Jesus with elements not often seen in church windows: a hiker, a skier, a moose, a big-horn sheep. The reredos is lovely and simple, carved of native pine to reflect the nearby forest.
The church: The congregation seemed to be largely visitors; the rector had to do almost an instructed mass, being that so few people seemed familiar with that particular take on the liturgy. The bulletin had a notice that read, "We are a small congregation and struggle to provide the resources to keep our ministry vital and the church building cared for." But the visitors do come. On the Sunday I attended (September 5, 2004), they included a retired bishop, a priest on holiday, and an American woman soon to be ordained to the diaconate, among others. The rector announced this richesse of clerical types at the conclusion of the service – a nice gesture, I thought.
The neighbourhood: Banff is a tourist town in the Canadian Rockies, but it's a tourist town with class. The nearby Banff Centre offers numerous arts programmes, particularly in the fields of opera and classical music. The town itself is very much a high-class tourist spot, with hikers in the summer, skiiers in the winter, and shoppers all the year around. The locals, I'm told, go elsewhere to buy their basics.
The cast: The Rev. Archdeacon Bob (R. Robert) Purdy, rector, was the celebrant, preacher, and you-name-it.
What was the name of the service?
Eucharist – Book of Common Prayer.

How full was the building?
Reasonably full, particularly for a Labour Day weekend.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. Father Purdy stood in the narthex welcoming one and all and asking cheery questions; other parishioners were also quite friendly. It was a very welcoming place.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was a fine pew, but the hard-as-rock kneelers had a Calvinist feel to them. (If Calvinists used kneelers, this is the type they would endorse.)

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was reasonably quiet, nothing outstanding one way or another.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Canadian Book of Common Prayer and the rather unfortunate contemporary hymnal Common Praise, which is filled with happy-clappyisms, to judge by what we sang.

What musical instruments were played?
A small appliance-organ of the type commonly found in undertakers' establishments. (In their defence, the parish is very small and I would guess lacks a music endowment.) The organist did the best she could with it.

Did anything distract you?
The music. First, there was the appliance, which was heavy on the tremolo; then there were the music selections. Except for the Merbecke service music, the choices didn't seem informed by a particularly Anglican sensibility.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The style was, perforce, informal, as Father Purdy had to instruct his temporary flock on the way things were done as he went along. The readings were done informally by lay lectors, but not unpleasantly so.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
11 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Father Purdy is one of those who can preach without notes, in the middle of the aisle, without going off on tangents, and always making sense. It's a gift not every priest has, but it worked out well in this case.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He talked about laying foundations and being able to finish building (with a funny story about his wife's grandfather's cabin, which fell over the first time the door was closed), and the meaning of that uncomfortable business about how we must "hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters."

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The overall friendliness of the place was just lovely, and the reredos reminded us of where we were.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Listening to that toaster organ and those songs, I'm afraid.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Everyone was incredibly friendly and outgoing.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I make it a rule never to drink after-service coffee.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – St George's clearly needs a larger year-round congregation, but I'm not sure how that can be accomplished. Still, it's a lovely place, with lovely people.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, absolutely!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The friendliness of everyone I encountered there.
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