Between God and… church

Today is Sunday, so it is a good time to mention churches in Britain.

Some time ago a Welsh friend of mine and her husband came to see us in Poland. When walking down the main street, she kept asking me the same question every time we passed a church building:
“And how about this church? What denomination is it?”
And I answered her every single question with:

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Lampeter

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church (Lampeter).

The population in Lampeter (South Wales) is about 3 thousand (in comparison in Lublin: 350 thousand, density 2.5 thousand/square km). The town may be tiny but there is a church (or two) in almost every street. (Go to Lampeter Town Council to read more about the places of worship.)

Kościół Metodystów Lampeter

Methodist Chapel (Lampeter)

Always before the Mass in my English-speaking catholic church a murmur of voices greets those who come in. No one is bothered and talks to one another. There are no faces that would be buried in hands and focused on prayers. It looks exactly the same after the Mass. At one time, even the priest during the sermon scolded his parishioners for talking so loudly, as it disturbs those who would like to pray. His words worked only once, after that Mass.

Kościół protestancki p.w. Św. Piotra, Lampeter.

St Peter’s Protestant Church (Lampeter).

Before and after the Mass – the murmur of human voices; during the Mass – the  rustling of paper. Heads bent over books, eyes tracing the whole service in mass prayer books or photocopied sheets of paper. Psalms sung from the Mass Psalm Books  drown the rustling. There is no OHR or screen, but there is a wooden table where you put the number of the psalm needed.

Baptist Chapel, built in 1898 (Lampeter)

It is quite an interesting practice with such books. Unfortunately, it would not work in Poland, as there is more than one Mass on Sunday, and there are usually more parishioners than seats and they fill in the space between the aisles.

Presbyterian Chapel (Lampeter)

Sometimes I look around to see whether there is someone else apart from me who is actually watching the altar, and with dismay I have to admit that the average age of those people is 60 (and it is just because there are some young couples with children). Who will take part in services when that generation passes away?

Calvinist Chapel built in 1852; turned into Boots shop (Brecon, South Wales)

Thanks to my glances around, I have noticed that people here who come to services are dressed less formally than we are in Poland. When I asked one of my Welsh friends why they often wear a fleece to church, she replied:
“Oh, it may be because during week days they have to wear uniforms to work, or smart clothes like suits, so on weekends they prefer to wear something more casual and comfortable.”

But how to explain that gentlemen who are over 60 year old wear knee-high shorts in summer?

Emmaus Christian Fellowship Lampeter

Emmaus Christian Fellowship (Lampeter)

To conclude on a more spiritual note: my first confession here. It was a fascinating experience for me. For the priest in Wales, too, me thinks. 🙂 I was absolutely clueless about HOW to do it, I just assumed it would be like in Polish but in English (I did not venture to do it in Welsh). It turns out that you actually read out loud the penance that is stuck to the confessional on your side, although the priest in Wales asked me to say Holy Mary in my own language instead. You do not have to remember what prayer, psalm or litany (or whatever else and when or how many times) is your penance when you leave the confessional, 🙂

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1 Comment on "Between God and… church"

  1. Very interesting – but the prayer in the confessional would surely have been the “Act of Contrition” (Akt skruty?). You would have beeen expected to “do your penance” (normally prayers given to you by the priest) in the church or Mass centre after Confession. I don’t understad why you were asked to say the Hail Mary during Confession instead of the Act of Contrition. Maybe the priest didn’t understand the Sacrament? It occasionally happens that a priest may be ordained from Seminary without having a proper understanding of various aspects of his ministry. I have met one priest who did not have a proper understanding of the Sacrament of Confession – it may have been the same priest! Please do not judge all our priests by that standard. Most of them would have been able to guide you spiritually through Confession. Unfortunately, unlike Poland, we have no seminaries in Wales and we don’t have many priests – so some may be ordained here whereas they wouldn’t be in a more Catholic country. Please send us more priests from Poland!
    Regarding congregations, some don’t have churches in which to worship, but have to use Mass centres which are used for other activities (non-religious) on other days. There is a danger that people may lose a certain awareness of the sacred when the Blessed Sacrament is not present – but I think that you will find that this returns during Mass. In Wales, our society is strongly community-based. Our Catholic churches are – in rural areas – many miles apart. Sometimes the only time that parishioners will see other parishioners is when they come to Mass. It is normal for them to ask after people’s health etc. when they see them – which,for many, may only be before or after Mass. A number of parishes encourage parishioners to stay for a drink (non-alcoholic!) and a chat after Mass which would be outside the main church or prayer area.

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