Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Morning at George's

I thought Id like to go to church on Sunday morning. I already had a two-day bus pas that stopped at a church downtown, so I thought I'd attend there. St. George'sCathedral is not only the oldest cathedral in southern Africa, it is also the seat of the Arch Bishop of Cape Town. I bet you can all name one Arch Bishop of Cape Town, even if you don't realize it. This was Arch Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's church.

It's a beautiful old stone building in the classic cross shape with tall stained glass windows. The seating is wooden chairs linked together rather than pews and the kneelers are individual cushions stored under the chairs in front of each row.

This was my first Anglican service, so I didn't quite know what to expect. I soon found my familiarity with Catholic mass quite useful in navigating the service, though there was far less kneeling. The congregation present for service seemed a mix of local members and tourists, people of all shapes, sizes and colors.

The reverend conducting the service explained the guest speaker listed on the program could not attend as he had been needed to escort Arch Bishop Emeritus Tutu to Nelson Mandela's burial in Qunu. The two had left Cape Town at 4 that morning for the burial proceedings. I was able to watch a bit of the burial live on tv at lunch after service. Arch Bishop Emeritus Tutu was one of many clergy walking the long road behind Mandela's coffin after the funeral ceremony.

A brass quartet welcomed everyone into the church before the service started. A processional led by someone swinging a ball of incense marked the start of the service, with the choir, the preachers and a whole onslaught of others in long purple robes walking around the sanctuary and up to the front. The church conducts its services in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. Songs and recitations are printed in all three languages and the congregation is invited to use whichever they choose. Most of the talking-at parts of the service were done in English, although some of the readings were done in other languages. The Old Testament reading was from Isaiah, read in Xhosa.

Much of the service was devoted to remembrance of Nelson Mandela and the sermon talked of both him and John the Baptist – the New Testament reading was about when John is in prison and sends a message to Jesus to ask if Jesus is the messiah. There was a beautiful poem dedicated to Mandela read by the poet. And a special musical offering on a South African instrument that I think was called a Zeze. The instrument itself looks like a bow and it was played by rubbing a stick along the hard, curved part of the bow. The lady held one of the hard, curved part in her mouth but I don't know if that did anything or was just to old it. It had a very unique, eery but pretty sound.

The service was beautiful and it hardly felt like two hours had gone by when it ended. There was a coffee hour afterwards, but I didn't stay. I wandered around a bit to admire the sanctuary and take some photos. And I found something delightful that really made me smile. A Kimberly-Clark paper towel dispenser in the washroom!

1 comment:

munchkinhead said...

How interesting! One of our scripture readings was the story of John the Baptist sending the message to Jesus. I'm looking forward to seeing those pictures, I want to know if the inside is Gothic style as well.