|686: Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada|
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Mystery Worshipper: Augustine the Aleut.
The church: Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Denomination: The cathedral is the see of the Anglican diocese of Ottawa; most of the rite was of the Ukrainian Orthodox church of Canada.
The building: The building is a late Victorian Gothic pile; barnlike, but with some very good stained glass. Given that this was originally a lumber town, the carved wood altar and choir stalls fit right in.
The church: This is both a cathedral and a parish church, with a very mixed congregation. At this particular event, I would be surprised if more than a few dozen were parishioners.
The neighbourhood: The cathedral is situated on an escarpment looking west down on to a neighbourhood in transition, with office buildings and apartments on the west. It is in the capital's heart and is traditionally the "other" Cathedral, resorted to for non-Roman Catholic state events.
The cast: Archbishop Yuri of Toronto and the Eastern Diocese, with a range of Ukrainian Orthodox clergy; Peter Coffin, Bishop of Ottawa and the Dean and Pastoral Vicar of the Anglican Cathedral; and a group of Roman Catholic, United Church, Muslim, Jewish and Mohawk traditional religious figures. The gospeller was Fr. Ihor Kutash of the Sheptytsky Institute in Ottawa. His Grace was in a dark purple or black omophorion and mantia, as were several of the other Orthodox clergy, some of whom were quite roly-poly (I have since learned that this is likely not from self-indulgence, but from a rigid adherence to fasts which are broken with too much starchy food).
What was the name of the service?
State funeral for the right honourable Ramon Hnatyshyn, former Governor General of Canada.
How full was the building?
Packed to the gills, with 600 or 700 present. The greater part were there in an official capacity, although many of them were personal friends of his late excellency, as he had been a well-liked member of parliament for many years. About 100 members of the general public were packed in, and the adjoining cathedral hall held another 100 or so.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was there in an official capacity as one of the greeters, ensuring that guests were in their appointed spots, privy councillors with other privy councillors, premiers where they should be, and in the right order, and so forth.
Was your pew comfortable?
I hope that their pews were. In any case, they didn't get much sitting time, as Archbishop Yurij forgot to tell them that they could sit during the Orthodox liturgy. I was standing at the back for two hours, for which I was prepared with very comfortable shoes.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Many of the official guests were chatting quietly with each other, as this was the first time many had seen each other in a few years, but they were couth about it and made little noise.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"We welcome you to Christchurch Cathedral."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A specially-printed leaflet, which provided the texts of the national anthem, "The Lord's My Shepherd" and the royal anthem ("God Save the Queen"), along with a list of the principal players. A brief paragraph described the Ukrainian Orthodox funeral liturgy, as the brief time provided allowed for no chance of preparing a printed text, properly proofed, with English and French translations from the Church Slavonic.
What musical instruments were played?
The cathedral's superlative organ. A piper played "The Flowers of the Forest" at the end of the service, as the coffin left the church.
Did anything distract you?
I was quite alert, given my duties and some split-second timing requirements, so distraction was not possible. I occasionally gave some commentary for my young Jewish colleague assisting me, whose first state funeral this was. Every now and then I would assure her that it would only be another three hours or so.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was, in effect, a series of three funerals: the hour-long Ukrainian Orthodox rite (admittedly, it had been cut in half by the Archbishop, presumably as a concession to the weakness of the heterodox and the advanced age of many of the participants), followed by a non-denominational Protestant-ish rite with eulogies and readings, and a third, of a series of prayers by the representatives of Islam, Judaism, traditional First Nations religion, and the Roman Catholics and the United Church. The Orthodox component was criticized by one person of my acquaintance as "brutally truncated". Other of my Orthodox interlocutors were more approving, impressed with Archbishop Yurij and the quality of the singing, and there was general and sympathetic public interest in the liturgy, which was re-broadcast several times over the next few days.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
A brief sermon/eulogy by Archbishop Yurij, followed by two lay eulogies of about 10 minutes each. The first, by broadcaster Peter Mansbridge, was witty, charming and affectionate; Senator Yves Morin's was thoughtful and to the point.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Mr Mansbridge spoke in the finest CBC tradition, with clear diction, authority, warmth and perfect timing. Archbishop Yurij spoke with the rounded vowels and intent phrasing of a Ukrainian Canadian for whom English was likely a second language.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Mr Mansbridge's eulogy focused on his late excellency's humanity and irrepressible sense of humour; that he never allowed partisan rancour to interfere with his friendships and his human relationships; and on his love for his friends, family and country. Archbishop Yurij's comments spoke of the deceased's upbringing, his love for his family, and his pride in his heritage. I suppose we could have done without the references to the 1930s famine in Ukraine, but my Ukrainian friends tell me that he was quite moderate in his phrasing, given the continued warmth of feeling on the topic.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
From the opening of the Trisagion to the end of the Orthodox component, I was quite carried away by the singing, which was of high quality (I believe that they drafted in some Ukrainian Catholic seminarians to help with the members of the Toronto-based Ukrainian Orthodox Men's Chanters) and which impressed many in the cathedral and, I later heard, across the country.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Not much... it was a good state funeral, and the affection in which the deceased was held was evident by the feeling in the cathedral. I must admit that I was most wicked in my enjoyment of the discomfiture of many VIPs who were clearly unused to standing during an Orthodox service. I have yet to do penance for this.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not a chance; my duties took occupied me for a full half-hour after everyone left.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was an official reception at the national arts centre, to which all were invited, including the 200 or so members of the public who had turned up. Everything was first-class: the wine was good, there were excellent nibbles, sandwiches and desserts. Given that the funeral had taken over two hours and I had been standing or occupied before and after the service, I was grateful for the collation, and made my dinner at the buffet table.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 The cathedral is too big for my taste, but such comparisons are not relevant to state funerals.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It was a comforting tribute to a public figure for whom there was much affection. As well, I am a total sucker for an hour of Byzantine chant and this may well have warped my judgment.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Talking with people afterward at the reception, and over the next few days, it became apparent that the Orthodox ritual had led many Canadians into a new realization about the country. Our traditional vision of the country's religious identity as being a two-sided RC/mainline Protestant coin had now begun to change. Perhaps we were starting to realize that being a multicultural country meant that we had to enter into new and different ways of seeing ourselves and our beliefs and they were not necessarily easily domesticated to our old ways. Archbishop Yurij, his clergy and the singers were leading us into a realization that their voices were now our voices, and that Canada was changing, and that this was how it was going to be, and that it was going to be all right.