Embracing the traditional and the contemporary at St Paul's East Kew
Stories of urban ministryThere are many ways to be a Christian in the Anglican tradition. Finding out what works for your congregation can reinvigorate a parish.
By Nick White
April 19 2017Like many Christian communities, St Paul’s East Kew has had to find new ways of being church as our community has changed. Some catholic Anglican parishes have been able to thrive by focusing principally on ‘traditional’ forms of worship and community life. This is good and to be encouraged, but this is not possible for all parishes. Surrounded as we are by so many Anglican parishes and other Christian communities, St Paul’s needs to be something particular. We discerned that God is calling us to meet those drawn to contemporary sacramental worship in the catholic Anglican tradition, in addition to serving those who’ve worshiped God here all their lives. All forms of worship and community life emerge in particular historical and social contexts, even the forms of catholic Anglican worship and community that we now think of as traditional!
St Paul’s East Kew embraces both traditional and contemporary catholic Anglican worship. Some of our number praise God in a formal choral Eucharist with pipe organ, robed choir and traditional Anglican music. Others encounter God in an informal sung Eucharist with contemporary catholic music and intentional children’s participation. We all come together in shared social life and service of our community. We’re partnering with diocesan Parish Partnerships and the Brotherhood of St Laurence in their Good Neighbour Project, for example.
Our Contemporary Eucharist is informal in use of the worship space. We stand in a circle around the altar, for example. We sing the Eucharist accompanied by the piano and our hymns and songs include both current English language compositions and translations from sources from other languages. Children are encouraged to share their theologising and it is frequently from the mouths of babes that God speaks to us. We gather around word and sacrament, pray, sit in silence and go out to serve God. The rich symbols of our catholic Anglican heritage continue to draw us into our Christian journey of death and new life. Around word and sacrament are candles, vestments and incense. There are excellent liturgical resources for such new patterns for worship.
East Kew’s expression of our catholic Anglican heritage was born following planning, gestation and struggle. After a year of prayer, discernment and consultation we moved from a pattern of 8am said Eucharist and 10am choral Eucharist to 9am choral Eucharist and 11am contemporary Eucharist. All parishioners had to embrace change. The faithful worshipers at 8am all graciously joined those at the choral Eucharist, who now worship an hour earlier. Some moved from the choral Eucharist to form the new contemporary Eucharist congregation and newcomers have joined us. We also meet regularly for guided meditation and silent prayer.
There are many ways to be a Christian community in the Anglican tradition. At St Paul’s in East Kew we’re seeking to be true to our heritage and faithful to God’s call into our future. I wonder into what future God is calling your parish.
This story has been shared as part of Melbourne Bishop Genieve Blackwell's call to parishes in the Marmingatha Episcopate to share their stories of urban ministry. To find out how your parish can get involved, click here.