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|2081: St Peter
and St Paul and All Saints, Oldham, Greater Manchester, England
St Peter and St Paul and All Saints, Oldham, Greater Manchester,
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
The building is an attractive red brick affair with highlights
in stone. The interior is beautiful, with low clear glass windows
in the nave, allowing for plenty of natural light, and stained
glass for the east window. This was formerly an Anglican church,
and the building still bears a number of marks of its Anglican
past. Among them are the organ, the ceiling painted with Victorian
depictions of angels and other symbols, and a large wrought-iron
corona suspended above the holy table. However, it has been
well adapted to its current use with the addition of iconographic
depictions of angels on the east wall and the installation of
a traditional iconostasis. This is of the wooden frame variety
with icons set into it, thus allowing worshippers to see the
action in the altar.
This parish seems very culturally Ukrainian. For instance, while
a number of Ukrainian Catholic churches have foregone use of
their traditional liturgical language of Church Slavonic, some
have incorporated the local language to a greater or lesser
degree. At SS Peter and Paul, the service was entirely in Ukrainian.
Oldham is a large town in northwest England, population 103,000,
around seven miles from Manchester. The area rose to prominence
in the 19th century as a centre for the textile industry. This
declined in the latter part of the 20th century. The area now
known as Greater Manchester has been a place of settlement for
Ukrainian families since at least the late 19th century, although
today many of the second and third generations have moved elsewhere
and do not necessarily retain ties with the churches. In more
recent years, Oldham has become home to many Asian people who
have also brought elements of their culture with them. The residential
area immediately surrounding the church is inhabited primarily
by Muslims of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, with a mosque
and a number of shops and eateries specialising in Asian supplies
and cuisine. Memories of the local inter-racial riots of 2001
remain clear in the minds of Oldham's residents and most people
make a concerted effort to be tolerant and affirming of the
various cultures that now peacefully co-exist.
The celebrant and preacher was the Very Revd Father Bohdan Lysykanych,
former Apostolic Administrator to the Ukrainian Catholic Exarchate
in Great Britain prior to the appointment of its new bishop
administrator last year.
The date & time: Sunday, 26 September 2010, 11.15am. The 18th Sunday after Pentecost and the Dedication of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem.
What was the name of the service?
The Divine Liturgy.
How full was the building?
There were between 40 and 45 people present in a building that
could have comfortably seated about 250. However, most people
sat together near the front. (Your Mystery Worshipper sat discreetly
or perhaps obviously near the back.)
Did anyone welcome you
No, and to be honest, that's the way I quite like it. I suppose
I'm the sort of person who likes to be reasonably comfortable
in my surroundings before interacting with people. If I'm in
an unfamiliar church, conversation with a stranger, being handed
books, and given directions of what to do and where to go are
all things I can happily do without. After the service, I will
feel more at home and more amenable to conversation.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. I have no complaints. There was ample leg room and no uncomfortable
bits in an awkward place in my back as one sometimes finds.
My surprise came more from the fact that there were any pews
there at all. I imagine they were inherited from the Anglican
community. It must be said that they are really quite attractive
pews – dark wood with rather smart carving in places. More
on this later.
How would you describe the pre-service
Quiet and reverential. There were a few muted conversations here and there but for the most part unnoticeable.
What were the exact opening words of the
Exclaimed in Ukrainian: "Blessed is the kingdom of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever,
and unto the ages of ages."
What books did the congregation use during the
There were a few booklets available in the pews containing the
text of the liturgy but nobody seemed to be using them. The
divine liturgy is generally unchanging and is easily followed
without the need for books.
What musical instruments were played?
None. This is a Slav-Byzantine Rite church, which is one of the inheritors of the school of thought which says that musical instruments were used in Old Testament worship to supplement human singing because the light of Christ had not yet dawned on the world, but now that human beings may live in the light of Christ, the human voice in its purity is the only instrument fitting for the worship of God.
Did anything distract you?
A few things, actually. The fact that I do not understand Ukrainian
meant that the sermon gave my eyes and my mind ample opportunity
to wander. I noticed the beauty of the pews and thought how
much freer the movement of the liturgy would be if they were
not there. Then I thought how the church could lay aside any
financial concerns it may have if it were to sell them and the
organ (which is unused). However, what I then noticed during
this time was that the decor of the church, which was certainly
not what I would usually associate with Slav-Byzantine worship
or spirituality, was also not in keeping with the "Lancashire
low" tradition of the previous Anglican occupants. The building
is adorned with statues of the Mother of God and St Joseph,
rosary beads and very large stations of the cross, none of which
would have been countenanced by the previous occupants of the
building. So where did they come from? It was then that it dawned
on me that I was experiencing first-hand the Latinisation of
Ukrainian Catholicism of which I had only ever previously read.
This was further highlighted when the priest blessed with his
hand and the people crossed themselves, and at the "Svjat,
Svjat, Svjat" (the sanctus) when the congregation fell
to its knees for the consecration in Roman Catholic style. I
have had it drilled into me that kneeling for prayer on Sundays
is something that is just not done, in honour of the
Resurrection, yet it seemed so natural to these faithful people
as it has simply been their custom for as long as they can remember.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
It had the usual relaxed formality of any other divine liturgy
to which I have been. Things were done with ceremony and dignity
but it seemed natural and "lived in", not done with forced military
precision as though the participants had learnt it from an instruction
manual and were afraid of setting a foot wrong. The few variable
portions were chanted beautifully by the choir and a cantor,
and most of the congregation joined in the singing of the rest
of the service in two-three part harmony. I tried to lend my
voice where I could.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
As the sermon was in Ukrainian, which is a language that I do not have, I was not able to understand the content. However, the congregation appeared attentive and engaged.
Which part of the service was like being in
There were a few things, actually. Firstly, it was good to see
the reverence and devotion that was clearly in evidence. I had
an immense feeling of satisfaction at hearing almost the entire
congregation singing in harmony and filling the building with
its praises. There was no sense of "choir-only" here. I was
also pleased to see that, despite the Latinisations in evidence
in the decor of the building and the piety of the people, the
priest himself served his parts faithfully to the rite. However,
most heavenly of all was the fact that I was able to slip into
a church anonymously, without fuss being made over me, without
any responsibility, and without an expectation that I would
have to share all about myself. The "hands-off" approach is
perhaps not the best for visitors who need to feel actively
welcomed or for a church that hopes to welcome people and to
grow, but for me it was just what I needed and I was grateful
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well, there were some things that would have quite ruffled my
feathers were I to witness them in an Orthodox church. But I
suppose, as with anything that upsets us in our own traditions,
we tend to mind less when we see them elsewhere. For example,
several of the litanies were either abbreviated or omitted entirely.
But strangest of all, there was no incense. I had never before
witnessed this at the liturgy of St John Chrysostom. Even the
simplest liturgy, with nobody present but one priest and a cantor,
usually has incense. I wonder why this was different.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Very little. A short, extra-liturgical hymn was sung after the
dismissal. Within two minutes of it having ended, almost the
entire congregation had left the church. A few people from the
choir were tidying music away at the front, so I stood near
them and looked at some of the decor of the building, but there
was no interaction. I left after a few minutes, to find a few
people outside putting jackets on and getting into cars. One
gentleman shook my hand and started a brief and polite exchange,
but he had to leave as he was the driver for a group who had
How would you describe the after-service
There seemed to be no obvious time of fellowship after the liturgy.
As an Orthodox Christian with an Anglican background accustomed
to the Slavic custom of a full meal after a Sunday service,
or at least conversation over drinks and biscuits, I thought
this seemed unusual.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 My faith and spirituality are now so firmly grounded
in the Slav-Byzantine Rite that a Ukrainian Catholic church
would be the natural place for me to make my home. I know the
liturgy inside out and am somewhat familiar with Slavonic, so
the service being in Ukrainian poses no difficulty for me. However,
this particular community has a shared history together, and
I got the feeling that on Sunday mornings it would be difficult
for a newcomer, especially one who is not Ukrainian or in some
way of Slavic descent, to find a way into that. As I mentioned,
on the occasion I visited, I needed to be afforded my space
and privacy, but if I were trying to join the parish I would
be grateful for a little more of an effort at welcoming me than
was extended by either the laity or the priest.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The beautiful and satisfying iconostasis. So often one finds
either extreme of a solid iconostasis where nothing in the altar
is visible, or one which is of barely any substance and from
which the doors and veil are absent. It is entirely refreshing
to find one that gets the right balance.
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