While doing a doctorate in England, Kris and I attended St. Peter’s Toton (near Beeston outside Nottingham) — a wonderful Anglican community of faith. John Corrie, the curate (whatever that means), and his wife Elisabeth — with two kids at the time (Benjamin and Caroline), were the leaders at St. Peter’s. I especially fell in love with the Book of Common Prayer, but never did know how the Anglicans with their “churchy” accents were able to sing from the Song book without music.
Recently my former student and now a vicar, Rob Merola, has invited us out to St. Matthew’s in Sterling, VA, to speak. And with our routine practice of the Divine Hours, we have an occasional need to find our way to an Anglican/Episcopalian church.
So, we decided Saturday we’d go to St. Lawrence’s here in Libertyville Sunday morning. The most important thing to know about attending an Anglican church is this: everyone, except guests, knows the rules of play. Nothing big, but it pervades the whole: they know when to stand, when to kneel, and when to sit — and, on top of these things, when to say “And with your spirit” and “The peace of the Lord” and all that stuff.
We entered through the back — which means we also entered into the sanctuary at the front. Thinking we’d sit back far enough not to be noticeable, we sat in the fourth row. By the time we started, we realized we were in the front on our side.
Which led to at least three times that we were sitting when everyone else was standing, or standing when everyone else was kneeling (the most embarrassing moment of all, when Kris glanced behind her and whispered “We are the only ones standing.”), or sitting when everyone else was kneeling.
A few old-timers humored us by asking “if we were new.” And Kris and I both detected a clear wink given our way from the deacon when we knelt in front for communion.
So, here’s my advice … get there early and sit behind everyone. It takes some practice. Eventually, we assume, we’ll figure the Episcopals out.