Some love it. Others have serious concerns about it. Still others aren’t quite sure. It grew out of many discussions at Parish Council and took over six months to implement. It’s changed staff work, it’s shifted volunteer roles, and it’s prompted theological essays and generated some heat and some light. It is, of course, the move of the post 10:30 Eucharist coffee reception from the Parish Hall to the Cathedral Chancel.
“Should we change the words of the dismissal from ‘Let us go in peace to love and serve the Risen Christ’ to ‘Let’s hang around for a while and have a cup of coffee?’ quipped Cathedral Curate Chris Dierkes. And he has a point-the end of the Eucharistic liturgy is a clarion call to God’s mission-to go out, strengthened by the sacrament of Holy Communion to be part of the Body of Christ in the world. Probably the most vibrant symbol of this would be the entire congregation following the cross and candles out of the Cathedral and onto the street.
But, for many years, Christian communities have taken a few moments after the liturgy to meet for the purpose of forming and sustaining relationships. When churches and neighbourhoods were contiguous there was less need to build community intentionally since the community already interacted in myriad ways, and the parish was simply another way for them to be together.
Not now. With technology pervading almost every area of our lives, it’s easy-as the recent Vancouver Foundation survey found (read it here http://www.vancouverfoundation.ca/documents/Van-Fdn-Benefits-of-neighbourliness.pdf_) people live insular lives. Although many Vancouverites live in densely populated areas, friendships and close relationships tend not to be in the neighbourhoods, but in other areas of town, or in other cities, or indeed in other countries. The Internet has made it possible for each of us to construct an idiosyncratic community of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Increasingly people can work from their homes, or from wherever they reducing the social relations prompted by the work place.
So in a place like Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver, where the Sunday congregation is drawn from all around BC’s lower mainland, including people investigating Anglicanism, and, especially in the summer months also including visitors from around the world, how do we make a space for human connection? The parish hall in the lower level has a number of drawbacks including acoustic challenges that make it hard to carry on conversations. Therefore the Parish Council requested that we have trial period of having the Sunday reception after the 10:30 liturgy upstairs, in the same space where we worship.
At its best what we have sought is an integration of sacramental life and the life of the community: time and again when hospitality is offered in the Cathedral’s Chancel and Nave many comment about how appropriate it is for the people of God to gather and connect in the space where we worship. For a parish that has valued the theological conviction “worship and work must be one” to build and celebrate community in the same space where the congregation gathers for worship is not only appropriate but helps extend the commission at the end of the Eucharist to go into the world–in other words to take what we believe into where we live and move day to day. How appropriate then it is to begin to live that out in the very space where the Eucharist has been celebrated.
It’s a trial period: July and August when possible (there are a couple weeks when Music Fest Vancouver has an afternoon concert so we’ll revert to coffee hour in the Parish Hall). And your feedback is important. Let me know what you think. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
And isn’t it an interesting conversation to have?