On Sunday morning, 15 February, I decided I would attend worship at St. Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh. It was time to really take notice of what I might be dealing with in a few months. St. Giles' is on the Royal Mile and their website says, "Also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, it is the Mother Church of Presbyterianism and contains the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle (Scotland's chivalric company of knights headed by the Queen)."
It is one thing to attend worship to participate. It is another when you think you might be in the position to lead worship somewhere sometime soon! As one might expect, the worship in the Mother Church tends strongly toward "high church" -- very liturgical, very formal. The music was astounding! The acoustics in a large stone sanctuary are simply incredible and the choir was well-disciplined and talented. When they processed in, so did the clergy who were participating in the service. The pipe organ, with the organist on an elevated platform, filled the cathedral with sound. The hymn books -- well, there is one significant difference from American hymnbooks. In the States, we have what I call interlinear hymns printed -- the words are printed under the accompanying notes. The Hymnary (this one happened to be the older red cover version -- I own the new purple one) has only the words printed with the hymn tune named, but not printed. So...I sang one of the hymns that had a tune I knew and learned the other two in a hurry!
One of the things that surprised me was hearing the Scripture lessons read from the King James Version of the Bible. It was published in 1611 by the Church of England at the authorization of King James I of England. Interestingly, James I reigned as King of Scotland for 58 years, the last 22 years of that time also reigning as King of England. I'm not certain now why I should have been surprised. The KJV is the Bible of strong tradition and if there is anyplace in the world that has a sense of strong tradition, it seems to be Scotland! Still, there are so many versions of the Bible now that are solid translations into modern English, I wonder if there has been consideration given to any of them. Of course, I was there for one service. They may use any number of versions that I don't know about!
Once again, I was struck at the commonality of human needs and thoughts. The preacher for that day said things that I recognize I would have wanted to say about the passage. True, it was much more formally presented than I would have felt comfortable with, but it was his way. It does make me very aware that, wherever I go, I may have to be a tad more formal than I am as a worship leader now. The churches I have served in Georgia as a pastor have both been small and, while having traditional services in form, have not been exceedingly formal in tone. We have taken worship of our God seriously, but not so much taken ourselves too seriously.
That has caused me to think about the future a bit. What kind of congregation will I first serve when I arrive later this year? Will I be in one that is high church like St. Giles', or will I be in one that is smaller and less formal? Will I be placed in one that has a contemporary service? I know that some of the churches there do contemporary (less formal) services -- the Assessors and I talked about that AND I have looked at the websites of some of the churches online. How will I adapt to them? How will they adapt to me? This is one of the reasons that I am glad that my first year will be spent in a familiarization placement -- my year with "training wheels." I will have the opportunity to explore the answers so these and so many other questions I undoubtedly don't even know to ask yet, while not being able to wreck the place completely!
I took all these musings with me for an afternoon tour of Mary King's Close -- but, I think that is a story for another day...