I awoke this morning knowing there was a lot of work I could be doing with the notes I’ve made so far. I also knew that I should get my thoughts organized to decide if I need to meet with Prof. Cooney again on Friday, as he had offered. Still, it was Sunday. I’ve missed church for the past two Sundays and I admit I was curious to find out exactly what the Church of Ireland was like.
While eating my breakfast, I flipped through the info provided by the hostel and discovered that the church in town I’d passed a dozen times was St.Patrick’s Church of Ireland. (Interestingly, somewhere else in town is St.Patrick’s Catholic Church. He was an important fellow, after all, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that both would be named after him!) Church service was at 10:00 so I prepared to go.
The building itself was quite beautiful, but smallish; the congregation even more smallish. There were 13 of us in the pews, plus the priest (or maybe he’s called a rector ‘ he had a collar on anyway) and the organist. From the moment I walked in, I was glad I’d gone. Perhaps because my life has been a mish-mash of running here and there since I’d arrived, it felt good to be somewhere kind of familiar, with familiar traditions. I got really lucky: the three hymns we sang were all to tunes I knew. (Everyone sang the hymns an octave lower than they were written! I couldn’t sing that low so I stuck to my guns but tried not to stick out too much. It felt good to sing,) And through sheer coincidence (because I asked if every service ended this way: it didn’t) the final hymn was Be Thou My Vision, a hymn set to the tune known as 'Slane' because it is based on a folk tune from this very area. (Note to me to help me remember: one of the other two tunes was the one I think of as ‘All Through the Night.’ The other ranged from Eb down to Bb with the two phrases in the third line running down arpeggios to end on Bb. Can’t remember the United Church lyrics.)
The Church of Ireland is basically the Irish equivalent of the Anglican Church. There was nothing terribly foreign to me in the service. There were benches to kneel on for prayers but, judging from the actions of the parishioners, use of them is optional. There were places where the book we were following along in said the text would be chanted, but instead the passages were just spoken, perhaps just because this rector is not a chanter. We did chant one sort of prayer. I hadn’t a clue when to shift pitches. The whole thing made me realize how much I like the informality, spontaneity and humanity of our church. I get the impression there aren’t a lot of churches offering that here in Ireland. There seem to be very few protestant churches of any kind.
It was a short service and afterward I spoke with the organist and several others. They invited me up the road to coffee hour at the house of one of the congregation. I felt a little odd accepting since I didn’t know these people at all, but that’s how you GET to know people, right’ They were all very nice and I chatted to a few of them quite comfortably. I even drank a half cup of coffee. (Unheard of for me since my youth!) An hour later, I said my thank you sand good-byes and headed on my way.
And now I’m back at ‘home.’ I have not yet met the author Joanne had mentioned to me, Maybe that won’t happen, I’m not sure. I think I’ll spend most of my afternoon getting organized for the week to come, assessing what else I need to learn here. I have planned a trip into Drogheda today to go online and send these past few days’ diaries and some pictures, as well as charge up my phone credit and internet credit, so hopefully you’ll get this soon.
There are just a few days to go. As invaluable as this trip has proven to be, I can’t wait to get home to my family and talk to people who actually know me.
Hug the ones you love.
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