Sunday, June 1, 2008

Another disappointing day at church

I haven't had communion since Easter. Did you know that? The 8:00 service at All Saints Cathedral has communion every Sunday, but otherwise it's a once a month deal, and with one thing or another, I haven't been at a service that offers communion on that one Sunday a month when they do.

But this morning, I was going to get communion. St. Andrew's Bukoto a short walk from my apartment announces on their sign that communion is on the first Sunday of the month. I was really looking forward to it.

And so I went to the 8:30 service at St. Andrews. I arrived a few minutes after 8:30, thus unfortunately missing the confession and collect for the day and arriving just in time for "Praise and Worship." Here are the words to one of the songs:

How wonderful is your name, O Lord.
How wonderful is your name, O Lord.
How wonderful is your name,
How wonderful is your name,
How wonderful is your name, O Lord.

How excellent is your name, O Lord... (marvelous, beautiful, etc.)

This music lasted for 20 minutes. At which point we had someone lead us in a prayer that lasted maybe 5 minutes but probably less, followed by our Scripture reading: Genesis 1:1-3, 26-31. That was it. That was our Scripture for the day. Then we said the Apostles' Creed, which was the one time I heard Jesus mentioned all morning.

After that, we all sat down for the notices, aka announcements. The notices were introduced by a clergyman (at least he was wearing a clergy collar) who welcomed us to St. Andrew's Bukoto on this, the second Sunday after Lent. WHAT??? No one in the congregation flickered an eyelash, though apparently someone seated behind this clergyman brought the error to his attention because he turned around, listened for a few moments, then turned back and said, "The second Sunday after Trinity."

The notices then proceeded to take--I am not exaggerating--30 minutes. Twenty minutes were spent on the building appeal, inviting people to come forward to purchase a prospectus of the new building for a minimum donation of 5,000/=. When people came forward they were to take the microphone, say their name, and announce how much they were donating towards the building fund. We kept doing this until all the prospectuses (prospecti?) had been sold. Then the head of the building fund said that now was the time for people who had questions or comments on the new building to stand up and offer them. No one did. He said, "Since no one is ready for that right now, I will conclude." The vicar then continued with more notices! He concluded with an impassioned invitation for everyone to attend Bible study at 10:00 which ended with everyone singing "My Bible and me," while holding up Bibles in the air.

The notices finished at 9:40, followed by two offertory hymns, followed by the sermon! It wasn't the worst sermon I'd heard in my time here. It actually looked at the Scripture and applied it to people's lives, for one thing. I figured he was a young seminarian, though, given the style of his preaching: "In verse 1, we see that God created the universe. That means that God is a creator..." That kind of thing. So he wandered on for a bit, making some good points about how God shares creative power with us, and some strange points about how a meat-free diet helped his backache, at which point he shared that he was in his 50's. Now, maybe he's still a newbie priest, but it becomes a question.

At 10:00, a warden in the front row passed him a note that he glanced at and quickly wrapped up the sermon. The vicar gave the benediction, we passed the peace, we sang a recessional hymn and we all left.

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO COMMUNION? If I am allowed to ask. As we left, though I wasn't about to cry, my throat felt constricted and I felt once again a deep disappointment in the church here. There were many things here that I did not expect. A lack of both Word and Sacrament in the Church of Uganda is one of them. It has certainly come as a shock to me. I would never have guessed that it would be in the liberal Bay Area where I could more commonly hear stories of Jesus' life and ministry, find churches that minister to the poor, and receive the sacraments.

I asked another parishioner who was walking out at the same time I was why there wasn't communion. She said, "I think we'll be having it next week." I'm not counting on it. Assuming I can get myself up and out of bed, I'm going to the 8:00 service at the cathedral next Sunday where at the very least I might be able to partake of the sacraments. Or it may just have to wait until I'm home in two weeks.


qoe said...

In the words of the American Spiritual, "soon and very soon, I'm goin' to see the King..." Soon, very soon, you shall be returned to the healing meal.

Do you plan to write a report for Presiding Bishop and Bishop Marc on your experience? The reason I ask is that so many of the conservative break-away churches are now under leadership of Uganda. Does this make any sense, in light of what your experience has been?

The light of Christ does indeed seem to be dim in other Anglican provinces, and this begs more than a few questions. Political and otherwise.

Kirstin said...


jantoepfer said...

I kinda liked that whole thing about the building fund tho. Maybe we ought to try that approach in the USA churches. Commitment in public wow. Mom