The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle

Reflections from Peter Neilson 

Sunday - 5 September 2021

Good morning, friends in Crail and St Ayle,

We are all aware of a number of Eastern European families who live and work in the area.  Recently Dan Vranceau, owner of “Dan’s Goods” shop in Crail, approached us for the use of the Crail Kirk to host services for the Romanian Orthodox community.

I am delighted to say that the first service was held on the morning of Saturday 14th August and will continue on the second Saturday of the month.  I sat at the back of the church and worshipped at a distance.  Today I share with you some of my observations and reflections on this time of ecumenical embrace with Christians of a different tradition.

Their worship is based on an ancient liturgy dating back some 1600 years to St John Chrysostom, known as “John the Golden” for his preaching.  I offer you some of the prayers from the liturgy to give you a flavour of their worship, but I admit that two to three hours is a bit of stretch for the Presbyterian soul!

Grace and peace to you all.

Peter

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Gathering into the Presence of God

Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and through all ages. AMEN

 

In peace, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the peace from above, and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For this holy house and for those who enter it in faith, reverence and the fear of God, let us pray to God.

Lord, have mercy.

For this holy place, this country, for our own country, for every town and village, and for the faithful who dwell in them, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

 

O Lord God, whose power is incomparable, whose glory is beyond understanding, whose mercy is infinite, and whose love to humankind is too great to be expressed: look down, O Master, with kindness on us and on this holy house, and give us and to those who pray with us the abundance of your mercy and your compassion.

For to you belong all glory, honour, and adoration, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and throughout all ages. AMEN

 

Listening for God’s Word

Revelation 7:9-10

 

9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’

With all the Saints

 

As I sat in the back pew and observed this Romanian Orthodox worship, I was struck by a sense that the priest and deacon were about holy business.  Before anyone arrived, they were praying.  At the time, I did not have an English translation, but I now know they were praying for people who would come, and they were consecrating themselves and all the elements they would use for this holy purpose of worship.  I sensed it and was reminded that we are in the presence of the Holy One.

As people arrived, they came in family groups, fathers, mothers and children from teens to babes in arms, about 30 people in all. Memories of sitting with my parents and grandparents in my little country church back in the 50s and 60’s came flooding back, and a deep sadness that we have lost that generational bond of family worship.  Lord, have mercy on us.

As the worship progressed in Romanian, with one short homily in English on “Consider the lilies”, I felt drawn into the mystery of our encounter with God.  The words flowed in a monotone, but there was another flow of the Spirit carrying us into the presence of God.  There were moments when I was conscious of being with “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven”, a taste of that heavenly vision of people of “every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

Communion was served to the children and the adults.  Bread was cut and offered on a board.  I was deeply moved when the priest came to the back of the church to offer it to me.  We are one Body.  And the wine was shared with a spoon as the recipients bent their heads back – “like a bird feeding her young”, the priest told me later.

Here was a liturgy that had been used for centuries, gathering the prayers of saints in earth and heaven, a little cluster of Romanian families so grateful for the hospitality of our Presbyterian family, gathering in dribs and drabs between 10 and 12.30.  Not many joined me for the whole time, but for me it was a Pentecostal moment of immersion in the Spirit, with all the saints.

A Final Prayer

 

O Lord, You bless those who bless You, and You make holy those who trust in You; save your people and bless your inheritance; protect the fullness of your Church, sanctify those who love the beauty of your house; glorify them in recompense by your divine power, and do not forsake us, who put our hope in You.  Give peace to the world, to your churches, to your priests, to those in authority over us, to the armed forces, and to all your people.  For every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from You, the Father of Lights; and to you we give glory, thanksgiving and worship: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and throughout all ages.  AMEN