Strange experiences

I won’t mention what happened in an Episcopal church down the road last Wednesday. I filled in for a the priest-in-charge, and, well, the experience was the stuff of all the nightmares a priest may have about making Eucharist come true and all rolled into one.
What do ya do? I just rolled with it. I’m sure the people, particularly the visiting English couple visiting their daughter, thought, “My Lord, is this what the American Church has come to???” Mass got said, God worked, and, well, it is over.
This is going to be a rambling post. I can tell already.
So, this past Sunday I said mass at Christ Church. They use the Anglican Service Book this time of year. The Anglican Service Book is all the 1979 Book of Common Prayer in Elizabethan language (except for Rite II, Prayer “C”). Everything sounds like Rite I. There are a lot of additional devotional stuff, too, which tends to make a bit more Anglo-Catholic – or just plain Catholic (that which is of the Western Church, which frankly is the Church of Rome).
First of all, I have never said a Rite II mass before, whether in contemporary language or old. This is such a strange experience for an Episcopal priest since Rite II is probably used in 98% of all parishes, with perhaps an early morning Rite I service in some places for the old folk. (Interesting, isn’t it, that the younger folk seem to like the older English. It is “church” or “spiritual” language, I’ve heard them say aplenty. Hummm. Of course, the Hip Hop Eucharist is also popular in certain quarters.) Anyway, this was my first time doing a Rite II mass.
I’ve always liked the Rite II canons. I do like the Elizabethan language, though. In my sponsoring parish back in Akron, I liked to go to the early morning Rite I. It is strange, too, I think, that so many Anglo-Catholic parishes still use Rite I. Rite II is far more Catholic and far less Reformed in its theology. The Rite II prayers come more from the Patristic period, and Rite I more from the medieval period – with a good bit of Reformed concepts and language thrown in for good measure.
Fr. Cullen says he uses Rite I because it is the more “modern” of the Eucharistic prayers, despite its Elizabethan language. Okay, I get it.
This past Sunday was also my first time celebrating on a “West-facing” or “free-standing” alter where I faced the people. I didn’t notice this at the time, but thinking about the experience yesterday afternoon I realized something. Since I’m used to not having eye contact with people while I’m consecrating, I remember not having any eye contact during the Words of Institution at Christ Church.
How much eye contact do priests actually have with the people during the consecration, anyway? I suspect that for those who know the prayers well it is a lot easier to look at the people at times more accommodating during the prayer. I read from the book. I elevated the elements and looked at them. Obviously, during the Sursum Corda and such places I looked at the people, but I do that when serving on an “East-facing” alter, anyway.
So, there you have it. A day of strange, but good, experiences. My first Rite II service (prayer B, from the Anglican Service Book), with other oddities included as part of their normal service structure. My first West-facing service. My first time celebrating in a different church.