Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter at the Cathedral

Great Pipes!

As our Christchurch apartment is about three blocks from the Anglican Cathedral, the dramatic icon of Cathedral Square, it is only appropriate that we celebrated Easter by attending their Festival Easter Day Eucharist. We arrived about 20 minutes early, expecting a large Easter attendance and we were not disappointed. The sanctuary is huge, as cathedrals are wont to be, and it was packed from front to back and side to side. This was not only an Easter service, but we found much more was going on with the future of the Cathedral.

We learned that the Bishop, Dr. David Coles, was preaching his final sermon on his last day as Bishop. To top that it was his 65th birthday landing on the conclusion of his 18 years as Bishop of Christchurch. He will be going to Queenstown as pastor of a local church. This week his replacement (by a very convoluted election in the Anglican denomination) was announced, and will be the Rt. Rev. Victoria Mathews, who is presently the bishop-in-residence in Wycliffe College in Toronto, Canada, and who until last year had been the Bishop of Edmonton.

To make the day even more dramatic, the Dean (the pastor in charge of the Cathedral congregation), Peter Beck, was serving his last Sunday before leaving for a 3 month sabbatical where he and his wife will be walking the ancient pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. If the church was not going to have enough of a transition, the Associate Dean Diana Rattray, will be leaving in June for her installation as pastor in Ponsonby (a neighborhood in Auckland).

As often can be viewed in high church Anglican worship, this service was magnificent. The Cathedral Choir, composed of high pitched young boys, and older men singing tenor and bass was wonderful. The Bishop’s sermon was excellent and the entire pageantry with probably 50 people participating in putting on the service with candles, banners, readers, and colorful robes was inspiring. The conclusion was emotional with gifts being exchanged from and to the Bishop, along with his final words of thanks and farewell. The entire production was flawless, which included communion for the hundreds of worshipers in the Cathedral.

To top off the day we decided to attend the Festal Evensong at the Cathedral. This is an Anglican service that dates back to the 16th century where the choir and minister sing the whole service, except for the Apostles’ Creed, Confession, and sermon. With the beautiful acoustics of the Cathedral, it was another wonderful service. To enhance the singing the church has a magnificent organ used to great effect. A very inspiring Easter Day.

Cathedral Facts: The Christchurch Cathedral is over 125 years old and is the most visited church building in New Zealand. Over 660,000 people visit the Cathedral each year. For a lot of information visit: http://www.christchurchcathedral.co.nz/.

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