Anglicans in Paris? Fine by me!

This morning I worshipped at St Michael’s Anglican Church, Paris, part of the Church of England’s Diocese of Europe. This morning was the most at ease I have felt at an Anglican church for a long time, and I am grateful for it.

First, unlike a lot of other low Anglican churches I’ve met outside of Canada, there was liturgy. We prayed a prayer of confession together from the words of the PowerPoint. We followed the words of the Eucharistic prayer similarly.

Second, the prayer of confession! I’ve been to a few Anglican churches lately, not just Scottish Episcopal but also the lovely parish of All Saints in Rome, where there is no real prayer of confession. At All Saints they had a section marked out as a prayer of confession but with no actual prayer — the minister would pray a blessing over water and then we’d all pray the Kyrie, leaving me scratching my head. Other places skip it entirely.

Third, since it was a baptism Sunday, the confession of faith was orthodox! No ‘alternative confessions of faith’ as I met at one church in Edinburgh, and no simple skipping of it as I’ve met at a number of others.

Fourth, we sang some classic ‘contemporary’ songs as well as two hymns. This use of old and new, this seeking for some sort of balance tends to make me comfortable these days. As did today’s song choices; the hymns: ‘Immortal, Invisible’ and ‘Amazing Grace’; the songs, ‘The Servant King’ by Graham Kendrick as the offertory and three others I actually knew during Communion.

Fifth, the Communion liturgy was modern but carried within it the content of tradition.

Sixth, the preaching was orthodox. The Gospel was Zacchaeus, the wee little man who climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. And it was impressed upon us that Zacchaeus’ good works were the outcome and evidence of his salvation that came from Jesus, from grace alone. Also, we were reminded that love and invitation are where our interactions with ‘sinners’ should begin, not condemnation and judgement.

Seventh, the prayer team. Whatever your liturgical bent, I think it is a healthy thing for a church to have available people with whom to pray. For most Anglicans, these people are available while everyone goes up for Communion. It is a salutary practice, for the Holy Spirit is real and here and with us.

Finally, the church’s commitment to mission and ministry within the congregation, to the city, and to the world. Sometimes I feel like Anglicans exist just for themselves, or that everything but liturgy is social, or something. This is a church involved with the homeless of Paris as well as with the spiritual lives of its congregants.

All in all, despite the fact that the interior of the building hadn’t got the memo that Paris cooled down over last night’s thunder storm, I was at ease. I felt like I was in the midst of fellow believers who worshipped in ways that I do and appreciate things that I do. This is not always a common experience.

6 thoughts on “Anglicans in Paris? Fine by me!

    • I have found no lectionarial reason why they were preaching on Zacchaeus, although I do know that this was the third sermon in a topical ‘series’ going on. This being my first (possibly only) Sunday there, I can’t say how normal this is for them or not; I’m actually okay with occasionally diverging from the lectionary during Ordinary Time every once in a while (so long as the rest of the year and the major feasts are left untouched, thankyouverymuch).

  1. I think in your reply to me you are in danger of undermining a central point of your good post. “I’m actually okay with” now becomes the undergirding principle of liturgy, common prayer. You personally, for example, do not see praying the Kyrie as an “actual prayer”, and you seem not “actually okay with occasionally” skipping the confession entirely “every once in a while”. Clearly others are “actually okay with” this… etc.



    • I do see the ‘kyrie’ as an actual prayer; just not a prayer of confession. There are all sorts of other meanings behind ‘eleison’.

      Re the lectionary, I believe overall that lectionaries are a way of uniting common prayer; there is something to be said for knowing that thousands of other Christians are hearing read and preached the same texts of Scripture. Then again, some dioceses and parishes continue to use old Prayer Book lectionaries, so the RCL, for example, does not unite us as much as it looks. Anyone using the RCL is not using the same lectionary as the Diocese of Saskatchewan. That said, there are many salutary reasons for following a/the lectionary that I’ve sometimes thought about discussing on this blog.

      The thoughts that overrides all the rest of my concerns — such as common prayer — is theological orthodoxy and theological fullness. Given the tendency of many low-church British Anglicans to divest themselves of liturgy and many mid- to high-church ones to remove points of theological awkwardness for liberal (post)moderns, the lectionary ends up taking a back seat in my mind. Is its regular, consisent use at worship preferable to choosing whatever the whims of the minister are in the mood for? Yes. Is it equally important as other parts of common prayer? I would say no. The theological principles at stake regards the lectionary are a lot lower.

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