|772: St John the Evangelist, Montreal, Quebec, Canada|
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Mystery Worshipper: Crucifer.
The church: St John the Evangelist, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Denomination: Anglican Church of Canada.
The building: The church's site describes it as being of "slum" Gothic design, similar to many of the ritualist churches built in London, England. The church has a distinctive red roof (currently under restoration). Inside, there is a large stone rood screen with a crucifix flanked by statues of Our Lady and St John. There is a side chapel dedicated to St Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The church: I understand that it is Montreal's premiere traditional Anglo-Catholic parish, and combined with the fact that it is a downtown parish with little population to draw on, it attracts people from a wide range of neighbourhoods and backgrounds. The church also houses St Michael's Mission, which provides food, clothing, and support to the disadvantaged in the area.
The neighbourhood: As noted, it is a downtown parish, located across from the city's Place des Arts. There are some commercial buildings and, I believe, some residential buildings in the vicinty of the church as well.
The cast: The rector, Father Keith Schmidt, was the celebrant and preacher, assisted by Father Marc-Philippe Vincent (deacon), and a subdeacon.
What was the name of the service?
High Mass and Baptism.
How full was the building?
I would estimate approximately 75 people in a building that would probably hold several hundred.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A sidesperson smiled at us as she handed us an English Hymnal, Canadian Book of Common Prayer, and the service leaflet.
Was your pew comfortable?
Reasonably comfortable wooden chair with a hassock for kneeling.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Fairly quiet and reverent.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
The first words were sung: "The sorrows of death came about me; the pains of hell gat hold upon me: and in my tribulation I made my prayer unto the Lord, and he regarded my supplication out of his holy temple" – the introit for Septuagesima Sunday. The choir sang a choral prelude before the mass, and there was also an entrance hymn: "Immortal, Invisible, God only wise."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A mass booklet produced by the church. It appeared to be based on the Canadian Book of Common Prayer, with some additions and modifications. The hymnal used was the English Hymnal.
What musical instruments were played?
None. The church has a Hellmuth Wolff mechanical action organ, but it was covered in a plastic wrap, to protect it during the roof restoration.
Did anything distract you?
Not really, although I was pleasantly surprised to see several attractive young females in the congregation – a demographic which is not always found in significant numbers in traditional churches. I also found the pace of the liturgy to be slightly faster than that to which I am accustomed (not that it was a bad thing, just something to get used to).
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Dignified, traditional Anglo-Catholic. It appeared to be a blend of English use and tridentine ritual. The crucifer wore an alb, amice, and tunicle, but the other servers wore cottas.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 He read from notes, in a clear, distinct and engaging manner.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The annual vestry meeting followed mass, so the sermon touched on some related topics. He mentioned some points of the church's history and spoke frankly of the difficulties facing many of Montreal's Anglican parishes. He also commented on the fact that the parish community was by nature somewhat more intentional than some parishes, since as mentioned, St John's is a downtown parish, without a large catchment population. He also commented on the epistle lesson, in which St Paul talks about running to obtain the prize, and related it to persevering in the face of challenges.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The choral music, without a doubt. Hearing Byrd's Mass for Five Voices in a liturgical setting was a treat, as were the motets and prelude.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I can't think of anything in particular, other than the fact that there was no organ music. Still, the choir made up for it.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A retired priest sitting ahead of us introduced himself, as did another couple. I chatted with Frs. Schmidt and Vincent before going into the hall for coffee. Once in the hall, a few people talked to us as well.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was wine, coffee, and I think tea as well. Two cakes were also served – one a baptism cake, and the other, a birthday cake for one of the servers. There were also sandwiches.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 If I lived in Montreal, I would probably make this my parish, although I would likely check some others out before making a final decision.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Kneeling at the altar rail, making my communion.