The community church is a large Romanesque brick building, built between 1911 and 1938. It was re-ordered in 2012. Inside it is very plain, with seats for the Brothers arranged in the choir, and a large plain stone altar.
This is home to an Anglican monastic community based in the Benedictine tradition. Quoting from their website: ‘We live together as brothers in Christ, rooted in the Anglican tradition and formed in a Benedictine round of prayer, ministry and hospitality.’ And, in better times, ‘We welcome you to Mirfield, to spend time in the grounds, to pray in the church and to experience something of our life … Some come regularly to talk with a brother, others spend a day or two experiencing this very different environment. Individuals and groups come on retreat and pilgrimage.’ But alas, in these troubled times, ‘we have taken the decision to temporarily suspend the Community’s public programme … Unfortunately the Community Church is now closed to the public.’ Daily services are streamed via Facebook, which is how I participated today.
Mirfield is a town in West Yorkshire and is the birthplace of the actor Sir Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame. The Community of the Resurrection shares the site with the College of the Resurrection, which is an Anglican theological college, traditionally Catholic leaning in focus.
Everyone who had a role was part of the brethren. There was a principal celebrant, and another priest in the deacon's role, plus a thurifer. A different Brother preached the sermon.
What was the name of the service?Palm Sunday Procession and Eucharist.
How full was the building?
Around a dozen people actually there: this is a monastic community, hence they are still able to meet for worship despite the restrictions. The counter online peaked at 121.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
One of the brethren spoke to camera before the service, welcoming the viewers.
Was your pew comfortable?
The dining chairs we use for the PC were OK.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very calm and peaceful: they started in silence in the garden outside the church. The only noise was birdsong.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
‘Good morning, everybody, and welcome to our celebration of Palm Sunday.’ The service proper started with them singing ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The procession was in a separate pamphlet, available online; otherwise the Brothers used their usual hymn and service books.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
The usual challenges of the attention span of the small children watching with me, and the technical issues (see the ‘other place’ section).
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Standard Common Worship Order One communion. The style there is fairly spare but dignified and well sung, as suits a monastic community.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
I can’t really answer this. Having read it afterwards, I found the sermon thought-provoking. But, due to technical issues, I can’t say anything about the preacher’s delivery. From the video and what little I could hear, it seemed a very straightforward delivery: no waving arms about here!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He started by referencing the German evangelical theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s last sermon. He talked about Jesus’ suffering in the context of his love for us, and how suffering, such as we see in the world, can seem senseless unless we view it through the choice to be there with people, as Christ is. ‘When we ask Christ to heal us of our sins on this Good Friday, we must ask also for his gift of love, to love those whom he loves, and to love them at great cost, to the end.’
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The beautiful garden, and the quality of chant singing that comes from doing it every day of the year.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
This was not the slickest of productions: the signal was lost when they came into the church for a bit (although we were warned that that might happen), and the lectern microphone wasn’t switched on – the Passion gospel and sermon were inaudible. (They admitted that on their Facebook page afterwards.) They’ve only been streaming since the current restrictions started, and so are limited a bit by their equipment.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Didn’t get any time, as the family were calling.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I’d already had my share of coffee pre-service, which was quite good, and it wasn’t time for lunch, so I skipped this today.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 — It's great that they’re letting people share in their services as a new form of welcoming people, and seeing how Mirfield does their liturgy explains a lot about the style of quite a few Anglo-Catholic clergymen who trained at the college on site!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. Here one feels like one is looking in on the community, but being able to share a proper service at this time of year is very powerful. The only bit we didn't see was communion, when the camera was moved to show the large crucifix hanging from the ceiling.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The garden and the birds at the start, and being part of group that really appreciated it, from the comments online.