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||1473: St Mary the Virgin, Waverley, New South Wales,
Mystery Worshipper: Ian Climacus.
The church: St
Mary the Virgin, Waverley, New South Wales, Australia.
Denomination: The church itself is Anglican
Church of Australia. However, the service I attended was conducted by
a number of Western Rite priests from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside
of Russia, Diocese of Australia
and New Zealand.
The building: A large stone building from the 1860s, sitting atop
a hill in Waverley, one of Sydney's eastern suburbs. The building has been
repaired, refurbished and expanded numerous times over the years, as described
on their website. Inside, the church is richly decorated. The altar originally
graced St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney, but was removed when the Cathedral
opted instead for a portable communion table. Behind the altar are panels
depicting the Ten Commandments and the Apostles Creed.
The church: The clergy who conducted this service are connected in
one way or another with St Petroc's Monastery in Tasmania, which was originally
Anglo-Catholic but which in 1995 voted to embrace Orthodoxy. In 1997, the
monastery was received into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia,
under the omophorion (spiritual and ecclesiastical authority) of Archbishop
Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand. The monastery was granted
permission to use a modified form of the Book of Common Prayer with the
explicit intent of attracting people of Anglo-Celtic ancestry to Orthodoxy.
They produced their own prayer book, known as the Saint Colman Prayer Book,
based on the Sarum rite. In terms of Western Rite presence in Australia,
I believe and this experience did nothing to challenge this – that
it is still very much a minority presence, and confined primarily to ex-Anglicans.
The neighbourhood: Waverley is a mostly residential suburb not far
from one of Sydney's most famous beaches, Bondi Beach. It is also close
to Centennial Park, a large parkland area where one can walk, run, cycle
and horse-ride. Waverley is also noted for the highly picturesque location
of its cemetery, situated along the coastline cliffs.
The cast: Mass was celebrated in the presence of His Grace, Archbishop
Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand. The Revd Fr Michael, superior
of Saint Petroc Monastery, was the celebrant, assisted by the Revd Fr Barry
Jefferies, from Saint
Stephen Monastery Mission, Launceston, Tasmania, and the Revd Deacon
John Whiteside from Good
Shepherd Australian Orthodox Mission, Melbourne. An acolyte or deacon
(I am not as sure of Western liturgical dress as I am with the Eastern)
was also present, as was a Russian deacon – the Archbishop's deacon I presume.
The date & time: 7 July 2007 (24 June on the Old Calendar), 9.30am.
What was the name of the service?
Matins and the English Rite Mass. The service was a special commemoration
of the 1907 decision of the Holy Synod of Russia, at the request of Bishop
Tikhon (later St Tikhon, Patriarch and Confessor of Moscow and Enlightener
of North America), to permit the Book of Common Prayer to be adapted for
use by the Orthodox faithful. (There is, however, some question as to whether
Bishop Tikhon did any such thing!)
How full was the building?
Exceptionally empty, especially given I had expected a reasonable number
on this centenary celebration. There were only 11 people plus two cantors
present for matins, which number increased to 13 by the time mass started.
I recognised several of the congregation from previous visits to St Mary's
– no doubt coming along, as I did, to see what the Western Rite was
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A cheery "hello" and "welcome" as the booklet and leaflet were handed to
Was your pew comfortable?
A reasonable pew, not uncomfortable. The kneelers were also reasonably comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service
People were sitting quietly in the pews or having quiet talks at the back.
What were the exact opening words of the
The antiphon "Behold a great priest who in his days pleased God..." introduced
the reception of the archbishop as clergy processed to the altar. Matins
opened with "O Lord, open thou our lips."
What books did the congregation use during the
A booklet containing the text and rubrics for the services of matins and
the English Rite mass. A special booklet for the liturgical reception of
the archbishop, with information on the history and current presence of
Western Rite Orthodoxy at the back.
What musical instruments were played?
Voice only. I did hope for an organ (St Mary's has a majestic one), but
perhaps Western Rite, like Eastern Rite, Orthodoxy does not generally allow
for such things.
Did anything distract you?
His Grace and the Russian deacon were in Eastern clericals; the other clergy
in Western clericals. And, embarrassingly, there was quite an attractive
chap taking photos. My eyes kept coming back to him.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Upper-lip English is my best guess. I believe Fr Michael may come from England,
as there was a pronounced English accent to his chanting. The style of the
service was definitely Anglican, with Orthodox touches. A makeshift iconostasis
had been set up. Incense was used as per the Western rite, and people stood,
sat and kneeled at various points during the service as in an Anglican church.
No filioque in the creed, of course. Communion was closed.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 His Grace is a great speaker. I have heard him at previous ROCOR
events and today was no exception.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
He spoke on the feast of the day, the Nativity of St John the Forerunner,
covering the life and example of St John.
Which part of the service was like being in
Hearing and praying a number of beautiful prayers which were new to me.
Also hearing the Western version of "Let all mortal flesh keep silence"
– no descant unfortunately, but, despite my love for Eastern Rite, the
Western version of this hymn moves me like no other.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Though the sun was out, it was very, very cold in the church. I wish I had
brought a jacket in with me. And despite it being a beautiful service, there
was also something about it that to me, at least, screamed, "Converts!
Attend!" as though Orthodox ex-pats were longing for an Anglican experience.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I had not realised both matins and mass were to be celebrated, so, as I
was almost running late for a lunch meeting with a friend down the road
at Bondi, I had to dash off.
How would you describe the after-service
I was not around to find out. I did receive the antidoron – blessed, but
non-eucharistic and non-consecrated, leavened bread distributed to all at
the end of a liturgy – before leaving, however.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 This was not a regular parish service, and thus I cannot truly
judge. Community is very important to me. I am an Eastern Rite man pretty
much through-and-through; finding it and praying it is a great blessing
for me. So, as attractive as Western services can be, my home will always
be Eastern Rite anyway. I must add that if the purpose of the Western Rite
is to attract the disaffected to Orthodoxy, I'm not sure a church filled
with the disaffected is such a good thing.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, but I also felt rather sad that, at least in this instance, the impression
it left in me was a call for disaffected Anglicans. In multi-cultural Australia,
a harking back to Ye Old Englande is not going to make much progress.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Sadly, the lack of people at this centenary celebration.
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