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of Our Lady of Glastonbury, at Christ the Savior Monastery,
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
of Our Lady of Glastonbury, at Christ
the Savior Monastery, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Orthodox Church Outside Russia.
The monastery, of which the oratory is the monastic chapel,
is also known as Christminster. It is a single plain brick building
on a residential lot. It is extremely small, and there are no
grounds around it to speak of. There are separate entrances
for the oratory and the monastic residence itself. The left
entrance leads into the bookroom and the chapel. The chapel
is small, and looks like it could seat about 30 people in the
pews. It features a small, traditionally-appointed chancel with
an eastward facing altar and an ambo. The bookroom features
publications of the Lancelot
Andrewes Press, the publishing arm of the Fellowship of
Saint Dunstan, a non-profit organisation for the advancement
of historic Christian orthodoxy.
The Oratory is a Benedictine Western Rite Orthodox chapel. The
monastic community consists of two professed brothers and is
primarily contemplative, but has an oblate programme for Orthodox
Christians called to participate in the monastic life in a Western
Rite context, but not called to religious profession as such.
On the day of my visit, the small congregation appeared to be
made up entirely of converts from Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism.
The monastery sits on Cannon Street East, a long, rather seedy
thoroughfare mainly comprising car dealerships, service stations,
and sad-looking duplexes. I walked from number one to number
390 (the monastery) without passing a single Tim Hortons coffee
franchise surely this is wilderness according to the
The Rt Revd Dom James M. Deschene, Abbot, was the celebrant.
The date & time:
Saturday, 26 April 2008, 7.30pm.
What was the name of the service?
The Great Vigil and First Mass of Easter, with the Office of
Lauds and the Sacrament of Confirmation.
How full was the building?
There were nine of us in the intimate nave. I had a pew to myself.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Everyone welcomed me personally, including a young married couple
who were being received into the Orthodox Church that night.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was possibly the best pew Iíve ever experienced. However, there were great stretches where it was not used, which tested the strength of my legs.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
It was very friendly and there was a real sense of fellowship.
We waited in the bookroom while Dom James finished hearing confessions.
Everyone present took time to introduce themselves to me, solicit
(kindly) information about me, and in a couple of cases, tell
the stories of their journey to Orthodoxy. I made it clear that
I was Anglican, not Orthodox, yet was not made to feel the liberal
Anglican bogeyman. Then Dom James came in and I introduced myself
to him. It turns out that we have a mutual friend! Dom James
invited me, and everyone else, to read one or two lessons since
the twelve Old Testament prophecies outnumbered the congregation.
I inquired about receiving communion and was told that I was
welcome to receive a blessing.
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
"Let us pray."
What books did the congregation use during the
A homemade leaflet entitled "Holy Saturday" contained
almost everything I needed to know. At a couple of points, I
needed to refer to the Orthodox Missal, which contains
the Western Rite liturgy, of which there were copies in the
What musical instruments were played?
None at all. The plainsong of the service and the two hymns were hauntingly sung a cappella.
Did anything distract you?
The lectern from which the prophecies were read was at the rear
of the chapel, and it was tempting to turn my head to hear the
source of the voices (that is, when I wasnít reading myself).
There was a spate of sirens at one point which could very clearly
be heard from outside. I made a mental note to take a cab back
to the bus terminal that night.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Christminsterís website explains that their liturgy is similar
to what one would have found in a Roman Catholic or Anglo-Catholic
parish before the Second Vatican Council. That about sums it
up. It was not a "spiky" experience, given the intimacy
of the occasion, but it was certainly formal and reverent. The
service began in the bookroom with the blessing of the new fire,
and continued with a procession into the chapel, followed by
the longest version of the Exsultet I have ever heard.
The prophecies were read, the litany of the saints sung, and
the sacrament of confirmation administered. We renewed our baptismal
vows, were sprinkled, and then sang a psalm before the mass
proper began. Parts of the liturgy were sung that I have never
heard sung before: the prayer known as the Secret that precedes
the eucharistic prayer; the "Lord, I am not worthy"
prayer before communion; and so on. There was the occasional
use of Latin, including a congregational Regina Caeli
to plainsong. The service ended with lauds, which consisted
of a single psalm with antiphon and the Benedictus.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Dom James spoke with a very comforting tone.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
He welcomed the confirmands and assured us that our sins had
been defeated by Christ.
Which part of the service was like being in
The joy and trust of the two people being confirmed into the Orthodox faith.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The saddest manifestation of our Christian faith is the fact
that we cannot all join as one around the altar of the Lord.
I long for the day when that will be possible, as I imagine
all Christians do. Meanwhile, I must say that my irregular status
was handled with acute pastoral panache.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not a chance. We all began to "lighten it up" after
the Lauds had concluded, but were reminded that the house custom
was to "take it outside." And so we retired back to
the bookroom for further conversation and the repast.
How would you describe the after-service
There was a very respectable-looking spread of fruits, cheeses,
cakes and cookies – but nothing to drink! As I was ready to
leave, a discussion about whether to make coffee or tea was,
erm, brewing. I thanked everyone and called my cab. I would
have liked to stay and bask in the afterglow, but the liturgy
had gone on for over three hours and I had to catch the last
bus home or risk being stranded in a strange city. I handed
a monk an envelope containing a donation and my Mystery Worship
calling card, and promised to return. Settled in the back seat
of my cab, I made a mental note to purchase a copy of Ritual
Notes for myself.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 While I wouldnít seek membership in the congregation,
I would gladly attend vespers and benediction there every Sunday
if I lived in Hamilton.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Ecstatic and even, dare I say, a little envious of Orthodox
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
The solemnity and joy with which a gathering of two or three can proclaim the Lordís death and resurrection until he comes.
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