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Day 56, Mass at St Nicholas

Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 9, 2011

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[Sunday, 10 July 2011] Woke up this morning a little late, which is surprising after the Mount Athos routine of getting up at 3:30 or 4 for services. It was good to sleep in; I guess I needed it. Fr Andrew had already gone to his church for the early Mass. I found my way around the well-stocked kitchen and made myself some breakfast. Not long after, Paul came down to eat, as well as a parishioner who spent the night at the rectory because he lived at a distance from the church. Fr Andrew came back shortly thereafter and we all had coffee before going to the church for the “parish Mass,” which I suppose would be called “high Mass” here.
Fr Andrew’s church, “the Parish and Ancient Church of St Nicholas,” really is ancient, the foundation being laid in AD 960. It has three naves, five altars, and innumerable shrines to various Saints, who are represented in statuary, Icons, and very often in relics. There were a couple of hundred in attendance at the parish Mass, people from all kinds of backgrounds, and from all over the world, in fact. It is a very conservative parish, and I saw the Mass served with great beauty, care and grace, and attended with faith and devotion. At the end of the service, which included a Baptism, the clergy processed to the Fatima Shrine in the back of the church and formally enshrined relics of two of the three visionaries to whom Our Lady appeared in Portugal. Then the whole church sang the Angelus (when was the last time anybody reading this heard the Angelus sung?).
After the Mass, in fulfillment of the caricature of Anglican parishes, sherry was served in the back of the church instead of coffee or tea. There was even a choice of dry, medium or sweet sherry. I, of course, chose them all, and had the chance to meet and talk with several of the parishioners.
(Oh, by the way, after Mass there was a picture taken of the entire congregation standing around the altar in the front of the church. I was asked to be in the picture, too. So, when the picture is eventually made public, y’all can all play “where’s Waldo” and try to spot me, because you will be in the know, while others will simply wonder at that one, strangely dressed parishioner that Fr Andrew has collected.)
In the afternoon, some three dozen parishioners came to the rectory and there was a great deal of socializing and a pot luck dinner. (I will add that the English are very generous with their liquor and have much better livers than I do.) But we all sat and talked for hours, and ate and drank, and had a fine time of it.
I’ll say it again here: many thanks and kudos to Fr Andrew and his parish for their kindness and hospitality to me while I was with them. God grant them all many years.
The next morning, Fr Andrew and Paul were very kind in coming with me on the busses and trains all the way back to Paddington, where I caught the express out to Heathrow for my flight home.

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Day 55, Dorridge

David & Sue Johnson & family

[Saturday, 9 July 2011] I had a lovely time with David & Sue and their family. I was treated to a fine mess of fish ‘n’ chips for dinner. Afterwards, David and I walked to a local English pub for a pint of ale. We had a great time remembering people and incidents from our days in Dallas, which was about half a lifetime ago. The next morning was leisurely, taking the children to a park, visiting the local parish church, and more reminiscing. All of them came with me to the station to see me off, just as they had all come to the station to greet me when I arrived.

After staying with the Johnsons, I was to stay for a couple of nights with Fr Andrew Stevens, an Anglo-Catholic Priest in a parish in Plumstead, which is in Southwark, on the south side of the Thames in London. For those of you who regularly attend weekday Liturgies at St I’s, you will remember Fr Andrew, for he’s the one who comes around now and then when he’s in Cleveland on “holiday.”

Taking the train back to London from Dorridge turned out to be a bit of an ordeal. There was construction on the train line, so part way back to London, we were all ushered off the train and onto a bus for an hour of the trip, then put back on the train to make our way into the station. Having come from the northwest, I needed, of course, to be in the southeast side of London. A total of three trains, two buses and 5 hours travel time got me some 100 miles from David & Sue’s house to Fr Andrew Steven’s rectory in Plumstead.

Passing note: If public transportation is ever forced upon the U.S. as a whole, Americans will either slaughter each other out of pure frustration, or the sheer passivity of it will destroy the American character.

When I got to Fr Steven’s, I found not only him, but Paul Pangrace (from St Theodosius) there. He was staying a few days with Fr Andrew before going on a two-week tour of Turkey. Fr Andrew had some fine lamb shanks for us for dinner, and a well-stocked liquor and wine selection. We ate very well, drank very well, and talked until we couldn’t keep our eyes open.