Evensong of the World

Do you remember the good people of St Eucalyptus and St Anaglypta? It was a conundrum that I spun a while ago to encourage people to think about the Reserved Sacrament and how we exercise ministry in remote places.

Well, today brought a new way of celebrating Evening Prayer that is intriguing and needs quite a lot of thought. It is related to St Eucalyptus and St Anaglypta but doesn’t involved the Eucharist and so probably less problematic.

I let it be known earlier in the day that I was planning on saying Evening Prayer at 5 pm using the video hangouts feature of Google Plus. Sure enough, I was joined by four other folk and Evening Prayer was said. We had Cliff up in Forres who is the Dean of all he surveys, Freda in Dalmally representing those who worship in Presbyterian tabernacles, Eric who is a member of the Vestry of a very fine high church outfit in the Far East (Edinburgh) and Beth who is a server and a member of St Mary’s.

Here’s what I learned

  • There is a lot of potential in this and it would be possible to do it better than we did it today though it was not bad for a first attempt.
  • There were expressions of interest from as far afield as Sri Lanka, East Coast USA and Falkirk. Who are we as we do this? I’m putting it in the Cathedral service book as Evening Prayer (Online) with five participants.
  • Latency issues are a trouble when trying to all speak together. I think it would be better if all but two leading people muted their microphones for the first part of the liturgy but turned them on again so that we could say the canticle, intercessions and Lord’s Prayer together.
  • It came to life when different people did the Bible Readings from different parts of the country.
  • There is also a lot of potential for Bible study, teaching and fellowship groups using this technology.
  • This resolves some inclusion issues – tonight’s group of people would not have met otherwise, however there are new issues of exclusion due to technology and rural bandwidth issues etc.
  • The potential advantages of this are so strong that it is worth experimenting further.
  • The experience is improved for everyone if people use headphones plugged into their computers.
  • There was something both comic and wonderful that when a small cute dog barked in Dalmally someone in Forres looked round to see what the noise was.
  • Google Plus allows 10 people in a hangout at once. Presumably once you get to 10 you spin-off into two groups. And so on. Etc.  Forever and ever, Amen. (cell church anyone?)
  • I feel I’ve said Evening Prayer this evening in a Christian community.

If you want to join in, you need a webcam and a google plus account which is free. You also need fairly stable broadband connection. You are welcome to find me on google plus and send me a message saying you are interested. I’m not using google plus for anything else. So far as I am concerned, google need to get rid of all the social networking stuff on there and concentrate on the video stuff.

Very happen to hear feedback, comments and ideas about this.

St Eucalyptus and St Anaglypta

I’m fascinated by the responses to my post yesterday about the two hypothetical but spiritually blessed congregations of St Eucalyptus and St Anaglypta.

Broadly speaking, I think that the responses fall into the following categories:

  • Change the game and ordain someone else (the Ordained Local Ministry option)
  • Change the spirituality of the people and tell them they don’t need mass every week (the mattins option)
  • Change Catholic order and use the Reserved Sacrament (the current option? interesting the no-one was actually advocating this yesterday)
  • Change the way of making community and have people receive on their own/at home. (Madpriest and PMo offering different versions of this and the BBC flirted with it ages ago)
  • Change the expectation that only clergy can celebrate (The Sydney Diocese/Neo-Puritan option)

There is another response which is “yeuch” which interestingly came most quickly from two folk who have lived but no longer live in a couple of churches where the tricky consequences of Scottish geography are very real indeed.

I’m most interested that there have been no responses that I can identify from those living in such places and worshipping in such churches at the moment.

I have to confess that I am fascinated by this. The question would be an interesting one to ask ordinands or perhaps especially a group of people applying for selection for the priesthood.

Just a little anecdote to add to the conversation today.

When I was in Perth doing my curacy, I chanced one day upon a block of stone sitting in one of the sacristy cupboards. “What’s this?” I asked, “and why are we keeping it?” One of the sacristans patiently explained that it was a mensa – a portable altar. It was a piece of stone consecrated by a bishop (presumably with holy oil and prayers) so that clergy could go out into the community and celebrate the Eucharist in places other than churches with fixed altars. It was explained to me that such a thing was particularly useful for celebrating communion by the bed of someone who was sick, for example.

“Oh,” I said, “but I just use a bedside table or a coffee table. I’ve never taken that stone with me.”

“Yes,” said the sacristan, nodding sagely, “things change. Things change.”

Those who want to do a little research into some of the issues might want to follow up these two links:

Now, more comments about St A’s and St E’s and the predicament they are in are welcome. I don’t think we have exhausted the issues they raise by any means.

Things change you know. Things change.