Cathedral Impressions from a Member of All Saints:
Step off the 103rd Street sidewalk into All Saints’ Cathedral and you could find yourself gazing up into the space above you. Pillars of copper support a canopy like ceiling. To your right banners hang down that depict apocalyptic scenes from the book of Revelations portrayed with elegance in hues of orange and blue.
To your left windows of stained glass in jewel like colours are set into the wall. They present you with figures and verses from the scriptures.
As you face directly ahead you will be looking eastward at three windows that stand together tall and narrow. In blues and reds the stained glass presents the figure of Christ. The windows are flanked by banners on either side that display the triumphal conclusion to the apocalypse. Beneath the windows lies the sanctuary, an area furnished with an altar and with candles whose flames shine brightly against the paneling that forms the walls.
With one exception pews of oak provide seating throughout this place of worship. Although not obvious at first there is a chair to the left on which the Bishop is seated during ceremonies. Beyond what is immediately revealed when you enter, you will discover over time unique items and features. In a rack on the back of each pew is a guide to the features and furnishings in the Cathedral. The things described in the guide are unique. Each item or feature will be significant because of its history or because of the spiritual message that it may reveal to you. Personally I am struck by the spirit of gentleness that prevails in this space. I sense this gentleness before a Sunday service. However I am unable to explain where this sense of gentleness comes from when there are no people present. In any case that expression of gentleness becomes explicit during a Sunday service. So I would like to describe my impression of what is called the Choral Service.
As the name Choral Service declares, a choir will take part in engaging the congregation in worship. To begin the service the choir enters from behind the congregation with a burst of song accompanied by music that cascades from the pipe organ above the sanctuary. In reverence they advance in red and white gowns. Their song soars to fill the space above the congregation as the choristers move up the steps in front of the congregation to take their places in the choir stalls. When the hymn comes to a close one of the priests greets the worshipers with a wish for God’s grace, love and fellowship to be with us all and to which all the people reply “and with thy spirit”. Then everyone joins in a prayer acknowledging God’s closeness and asking that our thoughts might be purified by His Spirit. The next event in the ceremony of worship is the presentation of Christ’s summary of the Law. A priest in a linen robe stands and proclaims Christ’s words concerning the two greatest commandments. For me they call us to hear the scripture readings in terms of gentleness and love. In fact the summary of the Law calls for gentleness and love for each other as well as in our thoughts, words and prayers. It is that spirit of gentleness expressed throughout the service that settles me. It takes me away from the clutter of thoughts, feelings and actions that carry agendas of self service. The entire service as a package, more properly called a liturgy, leads us to embrace this strong quiet approach to life and to the people we encounter. The liturgy is composed of carefully thought out elements, that have been woven together in harmony. They include scripture readings, short silences, prayers expressed with elegance and reverence, hymns ranging from very ancient to contemporary, the Nicene Creed proclaimed in unison by the congregation, the handshake of Christ’s peace by all the congregants with each other and the communion. Within a service an unexpected moment in which you are touched by Divinity can occur. Personally those moments are quiet and unique.
The Choral Service is only one area of beauty and peace that you can find yourself in when you step from 103rd Street through the doors of All Saints’.
Come in – you never know what you might discover!