St Augustine Chapel, Rome (Exterior)

Chapel of St Augustine of Canterbury, Anglican Centre, Rome


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Chapel of St Augustine of Canterbury
Location: Anglican Centre, Rome
Date of visit: Tuesday, 3 September 2013, 12:45pm

The building

The present building dates from the 15th century, with the façade being a 17th century addition. Now a museum housing a spectacular collection of Old Master paintings, the building is also still home to members of the Pamphili family, who prospered mightily thanks to the favours of Giovanni Battista Pamphili, known to the world as Pope Innocent X. In contrast to the rest of the building, the Chapel of St Augustine of Canterbury is a sparse, humble affair, with white walls, a plain altar, and simple chairs for seating.

The church

The Anglican Centre is an ecumenical organisation whose director is the representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See. The centre exists to promote Christian unity, with special emphasis on relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the churches comprising the Anglican Communion. They partner with Caravita, a Catholic community that (quoting from Caravita's website) fosters "inter-religious dialogues, liturgical developments, social justice and peace-building." They also partner with other ecumenical-minded organisations in Rome. The chapel celebrates a eucharist every Tuesday at which (quoting from the Centre's website) "Anglicans from around the world, Lutherans, Methodists, Roman Catholics, high church, low church, broad church, no church, all gather round the table of God's love to be renewed."

The neighborhood

The Centre is located in the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj in Via del Corso, in the historic centre of Rome. The Palazzo is near the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, Fontana di Trevi – need I say more?

The cast

The Rt Revd David Moxon, director of the Centre and representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See; and the Revd Dana L. English, assisting curate at All Saints' Anglican Church in Rome.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Eucharist.

How full was the building?

The chapel can fit about 25 people and was full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

As I entered the Centre, the two secretaries wished me a good morning. Archbishop Moxon also wished me a very kindly welcome.

Was your pew comfortable?

It was a chair.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

It was rather reverential. Everyone said hello to each other and that was it. Then everyone started praying silently until the clergy came in. Very Anglican!

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Extracts from Common Worship.

What musical instruments were played?

There were no musical instruments. We sang "Thou, Whose Almighty Word" to the tune of Moscow before the communion. During communion we heard some Gregorian chant, lovely and uplifting, wafting in from the sacristy, although its source was unclear.

Did anything distract you?

The temperature – it was boiling! And the fans were down at ground level – perfect if you are a hobbit!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

It was dignified and very ecumenical. I could barely notice any liturgical style as belonging to any churchmanship. Maybe a bit high-ish? "High and dry" would be it, but still ecumenical.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

10 – Perfect, never heard such perfection, seriously. It was a bit like a lesson or an informal chat, but was also very deep theologically – wonderful! The archbishop made excellent eye contact with everyone. He also nicely enriched the sermon with anecdotes. He was direct and perfect. Best sermon I've never heard!

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The sermon was – of course – about St Gregory the Great and how, through him, Augustine of Canterbury had evangelized England through many hard tests.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

It was during the communion, when people of so many denominations shared the Body of Christ.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

It was just too hot! They desperately need air conditioning.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

We were invited to lunch in the salone by Archbishop Moxon. Many spoke to me. Everyone was welcoming and friendly, especially the regulars.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

It was a nice Italian meal with rice, pasta, salad and bread – and oh yes, champagne!

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

10 – I would definitely be a regular, for the lovely people and the warm atmosphere. It is a perfect place to meet English speaking people in the heart of Rome, and to worship the Lord through the Anglican tradition in the heart of Roman Catholicism!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes indeed! All denominations were there: Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Anglicans. Very inspiring. The world should learn from this place. And it is incredible that Rome is the place where ecumenism is so strong! Who would ever think so?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

Archbishop David's sermon.

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