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Posts Tagged 'fellowship of ss. alban & sergius'

Nice ways to spend Valentine’s Day or, things I’ll probably only ever be able to pull off once, part VI

oxford-ticket-2Back to happier things.

My initial thought had been that we could go to Hagia Sophia Cathedral in London for Liturgy on Sunday; I had only been able to quickly walk through there back in ’07, and thought it would be awesome to actually go for a service and perhaps see the folks I had met who attended there.

Turned out that the Sunday we were going to be in England was the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, however, and given the role of that day in preparing for Great Lent, it seemed preferable to attend a service in English. The Cathedral does a Divine Liturgy in English on the first and third Saturdays of the month; otherwise, they do everything in Greek. (“We’re the patriarchal cathedral for the Greeks in London,” the choir director there told me when I met him. “Our services are in Greek or else.”) Alas, we were there for the second Saturday.

Plus, as Dr. Lingas had told us on Friday, it was a Sunday for Byzantine chant in English up in Oxford.

Liturgy started at 10:30; the earliest train to Oxford we could catch was at approximately 8:30am, and that got us up there around 9:50. It was about a twenty minute walk from the Oxford train station to the Holy Octagon, and I remembered where it was easily enough.

This was the first time I had seen the interior of the Oxford church; while humble in a lot of respects — it is a very simple brick building — they have done a lot with what they have. Also, while somewhat smaller than All Saints, I’d say they packed in about 30-40 more people than we typically do — it was filled to the gills. On the other hand, it was 2 February on the Old Calendar (the Meeting of the Lord, or Candlemas as doubtless some of the English converts might call it), so it being a major feast might well have accounted for the attendance.

The celebrant was Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware); the homilist Fr. Ian Graham; the cantor Dr. Lingas. Talk about a delightful treat of a morning. Metropolitan Kallistos served with a great deal of enthusiasm and verve; I’ve said before that recordings really do not capture how animated he is, and I would like to reiterate that point. Fr. Ian’s homiletics are very different from what we were used to, but not in a bad way, and it was very valuable to hear on this particular Sunday. Dr. Lingas — with one other person — sang essentially a stripped down version of The Divine Liturgy in English; what was interesting was that many of the same, shall we say, pastoral realities were present as I run into at All Saints. For example, the “Dynamis” of the Trisagion was, as is the case for us, merely a repeat of the first iteration rather than a separate, longer, melismatic comp0sition. Also, as with Bloomington, as soon as the Liturgy was over — time to start chatting! In all fairness, they actually have to go to a separate building entirely for their coffee hour, so there’s no hallway into which they may just quietly slip. It was nonetheless comforting to see that such issues are not geographically limited, shall we say. One fascinating difference is that at All Saints, more or less everybody in the congregation tries to sing everything; in Oxford, the people were largely silent.

The Oxford church is on the property of something called Ss. Gregory and Macrina House; it’s a house that exists as a center for non-liturgical Orthodox activity at Oxford, including some accommodations for students and the occasional visitor. It also appears to be where the offices for the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius are presently located, and is also where the coffee hour occurs. I hope to have some occasion to spend more time there in the future.

Following Liturgy, we ate lunch at the Eagle and Child; alas, it was full enough that the Rabbit Room was inaccessible, but the bangers and mash — and the fish and chips, and the beer — were still quite tasty regardless.

The rest of the day was spent strolling around the town and the campus, and it was a gorgeous, if chilly, day for it. In some respects, it was good we were there on a Sunday — most places where we might have been tempted to spend lots of money were closed. That said, Blackwell’s is an exceedingly pleasant place to spend several hours (and perhaps hundreds of pounds). They have shelves and shelves of things which have to be special ordered here — Greek New Testaments and Septuagints, English-Norwegian dictionaries, and so on. On the other hand, Oxford is certainly a place where people with those kinds of interests are concentrated, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. One more reason to contrive a reason to move there someday. Alternately, it’s a great reason to have a little notebook in which one can write down ISBN numbers and look online for better deals in US dollars.

We attended Evensong at Queen’s College; it was almost entirely at the other end of the spectrum of liturgical practice and singing from Metropolitan Kallistos and Dr. Lingas, but it was a nice reminder of what good liturgical singing can sound like in the Western tradition. I forget how much I like a pointed psalm sung antiphonally.

Finally, it was time to go back into the city. We got good sausage rolls from a bakery called La Croissanterie, and boarded the train.

Tips: It is reasonably common to encounter cash-only locations in Oxford. The bakery was cash-only, a coffee chain called Caffè Nero, and admission to the Saxon tower of St. Michael’s at the North Gate (“the oldest building in Oxford”) was cash only. (Megan went up; I didn’t. Again, something about paying to see part of a church just doesn’t sit well.)

Evidently, if the Orthodox visitor to Oxford were to contact the Ss. Gregory and Macrina House well enough in advance, they might find that they would be able to stay there. I don’t have any other details, and they don’t have a website or an e-mail address I am able to find, so the easiest way to contact them appears to be by phone — 01865 513117.

Yeah, Oxford is still my favorite place in the universe. What can I say?

Coming soon: how we actually got to bum around, y’know, London for day, and why the Sherlock Holmes Pub and Restaurant should be avoided at all costs.

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14 NaNoWriMo 2008 et cetera

I find it rather unlikely that I will complete 50,000 words within the next sixteen days. Nonetheless, I find it entirely possible that I will finish the first draft of what I’m working on — which, as I said before, I’m doubtful is 50,000 words long in the first place. Maybe more like 25,000 to 30,000; possibly even more like 15-20,000. We’ll see. It’s intended to be more of a shorter children’s book anyway.

Word count notwithstanding, I have been able to work on this at least a bit every day, and it’s taken me down some interesting paths. I realized that Petros and Matthias share a dorm, and that there’s a good reason for it — but I’m only going to be able to allude to that reason. I’ll have to save the full story for… well, later. I also had one of those experiences where the characters just up and decided to leave the room, leaving me behind sputtering, “Wait! Where are you going? Come back!” Unfortunately, they didn’t listen — typical 10 and 11 year-olds — meaning I had to run outside after them, only to find out that they were playing something called campyon, and now I had to learn the rules (such as they are) in order to keep up. (And, who knew, turns out campyon actually exists.) Not altogether certain about the propriety of “playing at ball” on the Feast of Feasts, but nobody asked me. Maybe once they’re done with their game, these kids can be bothered to, y’know, actually start following my outline again.

In other writing news, one of essays I put up here while lamenting a lack of a publisher seems to have found a publisher. Again, this was not a case of anybody stumbling across it online and saying, “I’ve got to have this!” Rather, I sent a revised (and ultimately, better) version of the piece to the editor saying, “I understand your theme for an upcoming issue is such-and-such. What would you think about this for that issue?” The editor wrote back saying yes, I like it, let’s do it. As before, I’d rather not say anything concrete about what or where until the issue is out, just because I know that nothing’s a done deal until the printed matter is actually in your hands, but this looks hopeful.

I urge you to listen to the final address to the OCA’s All-American Council of the newly-elected Metropolitan Jonah. (For that matter, just go here and listen to everything.) You may recall that I heard him, back when he was still Abbot Jonah (Paffhausen), at the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius Conference back in June; missing a good chunk of his talk and being in the Antiochian Archdiocese, I lacked some of the necessary context to understand what he was saying, but the reaction of those who were in the OCA and who got to hear him from the beginning was palpable. His manner is, to me anyway, rather reminiscent of that of Bishop MARK; I will be interested to see if they ever have cause to work together on anything. The address linked to above is prophetic and visionary at the very least; now, as he himself says, they’ve got a lot of work to do. He, and all of the OCA, have my fervent prayers.

Graduate Application Tip of the Day: Turns out, at least at IU, a formal IU transcript doesn’t need to be ordered (read “paid for”) for an internal application. They can just access your record electronically. If your GRE scores are already part of your record, you don’t need to pay to have those sent, either. It would have been nice to know this the last, oh, three times I applied for grad programs here, but at this stage of the game, I’ll take what I can get. If you’re in a similar situation someplace, know that it doesn’t hurt to ask.

I will wrap this up for the moment by noting two news items. First, I’m wondering, in response to this story, if perhaps somebody posted a sign saying “Free Orthodox Church.” Certainly, every time I see a sign for a “Free Methodist Church,” I think to myself, “Great, but where would I put it?”

Secondly — well, all I can say is that sometimes you can’t make this stuff up. I should go back and re-read William Gibson’s Neuromancer to see just how much stranger today’s reality of media and computers networks has become than the fantasy of twenty-some years ago.

Okay, back to waiting for these kids to finish their silly game of campyon.

Finally, the announcement I announced earlier

There’s nothing on the website yet to which I can link, but the Fall 2008 issue of AGAIN finally arrived in my mailbox today, containing my article about the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius conference, as well as my review of Cappella Romana’s The Divine Liturgy in English. None of the material will be new to either of my regular readers, although the format, length and structure of the pieces themselves are unique to the print publication — the Fellowship writeup is ~2,500 words (as opposed to the ~6,000 words my blog entries contained), and the review is 750 words, vs. 2,500 here.

As I said earlier, nobody stumbled across the blog and said, “Hey! We should run this!” I thought that I could tailor both pieces to suit AGAIN’s format, and wrote a query note to the managing editor, Fr. Michael Gillis. He liked the ideas, gave me word counts to shoot for, and I set to work getting what I put up here into a form manageable for a magazine. He liked what I turned in, made some suggestions and some editorial decisions, and then ran them. It’s worked out well enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to see some other things come of this, but I know darn well that until you have the issue in hand nothing’s a done deal, so I don’t want to say any more than that for the time being. I have other ideas that might perhaps make a good working relationship with Conciliar Press advantageous down the road a piece; we’ll just see. It’s a beginning.

I’ll put up links once they’re available.

The Fellowship of Ss. Alban & Sergius: Archbishop Rowan Williams’ greeting

The message from Abp. Rowan which was read at the Fellowship conference is finally online — or maybe it has been for awhile and I’ve just missed it. Anyway, worth a read.


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