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Hallo again to all.

Several of our friends told us that they did not go to church today. The reasons vary, and don't matter. Each of them stayed home with good reason, alone or with family, and made their own I Advent worship. We really needed to participate in the singing of organ-accompanied Advent hymns, so we made sure that we were at the main service of an Anglican church near where we are staying. Liturgy and preaching can be had via radio or television, but to get the full experience of the music, one has to be there.

We love almost all Advent hymns. We confess that this morning when the congregation sang 'Hark a thrilling voice is sounding' to Monk, we stopped singing on the 2nd and 5th verses, just listening, so we could absorb every nuance of the choir singing the descants.

The exit processional hymn (often incorrectly referred to as the 'recessional') was 'The King shall come when morning dawns' sung to St Stephen. We sang robustly. After the blessing and dismissal and dispersal, we stayed in the pew to watch and reflect. Advent is supposed to be a time of reflection, after all. Soon the altar was cleared and everything put away (though the I Advent candle remained burning). We admired the spare and tranquil beauty of this minimalist chancel and then took this picture of it with a phone.

Altar and rood screen after I Advent service

During the service we hadn't noticed that the Advent wreath had been hung off centre or that one of the clergy chairs was blocking the edge of the rood. It didn't matter, because its purpose was to be the setting for the celebration of the Eucharist, not to be staging. That setting served its purpose well.

A do-it-yourself at-home morning prayer service can have readings, recitations, prayers, thanksgivings, and music. Or one can listen to a service on the radio or online and feel drawn in. If there is a priest present, it can even have eucharist and absolution. It won't have a full congregation, and it won't have a church building. But it works.

Our reflection this morning in the church we attended was about the role that the physical setting played in our worship experience. Given a choice of physical settings, we prefer the all-out high-church version exemplified by such places as Trinity Boston or Durham Cathedral or Notre Dame, but there is beauty in simplicity if you know how to see it. If you think you don't know how to see beauty in a simple church, find a way to see the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Mary in San Francisco or the Church of the Ascension in Alice Springs or St Matthew Cheltenham in the Diocese of Melbourne. Some people don't appreciate the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, but we do.

When you worship at home, we suspect that you need to work harder at it because what you see around you is your home. No gold, no marble, no woodcarvings. When the weather coƶperates and if you live in a sparsely-populated place, you might possibly find a good worship setting outdoors. We suppose that if you have good mental discipline and the ability to ignore most of your surroundings, you could hold a do-it-yourself worship service in a petrol station or a dentist's office. But (at least for us) the setting makes it easier.

If you have a favourite worship setting, might you send us a picture of it? Send us a Letter to the Editor that contains a URL of your picture. If you have no way of putting your picture online, then after you send that LTTE, email with your photo as an attachment. If we get enough of them, we'll find a way to make a gallery of such pictures be a permanent part of AO.

See you next week.


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30 November 2014

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