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|1725: St Mark's,
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada.
of Canada, Diocese
A lovely old traditional Anglican church, dating from 1792 (though
renovated since then). This is the oldest church in the Niagara
diocese. Inside there is some beautiful stained glass. The building
as well as six acres of grounds are well looked after.
Their several outreach programs and other activities are all
well documented on their website. Of special note are the Wednesday
Morning Musicales, which feature local artists who perform for
the parishioners, the community at large, and patients of the
local nursing homes and hospital. There are two eucharist services
each Sunday, with a third service added on the first Sunday
of the month. The eucharist is also celebrated on Wednesdays.
Situated at the mouth of the Niagara River, Niagara-on-the-Lake
played a key role in much of the early government of Ontario.
The town has retained its 19th century charm and is a very popular
tourist destination as well as a favoured retirement community.
It enjoys a very mild climate for Ontario. Among local attractions
is the Shaw Festival, which began in 1962 as a venue for the
plays of George Bernard Shaw and has since blossomed into a
major force in the theatre, known for its provocative and subtle
ensemble acting and innovative theatrical designs, as well as
for reviving once-popular genres such as operettas, stage mysteries,
and other such neglected gems.
I assume it was the Revd Canon Dr Robert S. G. Wright, rector,
as his picture matched with the priest who took the service,
but his name was not mentioned in the bulletin. They are currently
advertising for an organist and choir director, but someone
was there playing the organ.
The date & time:
Sunday, April 19, 2009, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
One-quarter full – about 60 people, mostly seniors so far as
I could see. There were also three sets of parents with eight
children among them, I think.
Did anyone welcome you
Outside the church, a gentleman commented on the colour of my
jacket. As I approached the door, an usher handed me a Prayer
Book and said, "Good morning." A gentleman in my pew also
wished me a good morning.
Was your pew comfortable?
No – of course not – it was a wooden pew. But tolerable.
How would you describe the pre-service
People chatting. I could overhear what the ladies behind me
were saying. The organist began to play and someone tapped his
foot on the wooden floor in time to the music.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning. Our opening hymn will be number 211."
After the hymn, the rector warmly welcomed everyone, including
the visitors whom he had seen. I thought to myself, "Ah, I have
been seen and noted."
What books did the congregation use during the
Canadian Book of Common Prayer and Common Praise,
the newest hymn book in the Canadian Anglican Church.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ. The organist moved to the piano for the psalm.
Did anything distract you?
The aforementioned foot tapping pre-service. Also an interruption
in the middle of the service for announcements. Otherwise, the
service was well conducted and the few children were well behaved.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Mostly very conventional – especially using the old Prayer
Book service. The congregation, mostly over 60, were not great
singers – no rafters shaken there! And I was very sorry
not to see a choir in attendance. I am not sure why the absence
of a permanent organist should stop the choir from singing on
Sundays to lead the congregation.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Canon Wright stood in the chancel and so seemed to
speak personally to us. He used an excellent sound system with
a remote mike. (No squawks.)
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
He spoke about forgiveness and how important forgiveness is to allow us to live our lives in Christ to the fullest.
Which part of the service was like being in
The lingering smell of lilies from Easter. All the beautiful
bulbs – daffodils, hyacinths, tulips in the planters on the
window sills. The glorious sun streaming in through the windows.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The foot tapping and the interruption of the service by announcements.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Before I stood up from my seat, the gentleman in the pew asked
me where I was from, etc. I then followed the rest of the congregation
across the yard to the hall. Above the coffee window was a sign
that read: "Practise hospitality" – a quote from St Paul,
which was reiterated in the information leaflet. I was given
coffee and shown where the "fixings" were. As I drank it, I
stood in a conspicuous place and waited for a full 11 minutes
for someone to talk to me. But no one came near me except to
walk past. St Paul would have agreed that hospitality is more
than coffee. I hated standing there and would have left much
earlier if I hadn't been "on duty" as a Mystery Worshipper.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
The coffee, served in a china mug, was quite drinkable but I
did not see whether it was fair trade. Someone was celebrating
their 90th birthday, and there was sherry and a cake for that,
but I didn't stay to try it.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 As far as I could tell, there is no children's program.
There were, after all, only eight children at the service. There
was a note about Bible study but no indication of when it was
to be held. There was a lot of literature about outreach programs
and fellowship but not much about spirituality and its development.
Although it is not fair to make up one's mind on the basis of
one visit, if I lived there I think I would be church seeking.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The discomfort of standing like a lemon after the service.
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