Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries from March 2010

Sunday’s Service (28 Feb 2010)

March 2nd, 2010 · 1 Comment


     This past Sunday, Alli and I attended a service at the Church of St. Helen, which was originally founded as a part of The Great Hospital, and remains closely linked to the Hospital to this day. The Anglican service was from The Book of Common Prayer, and is, I was told by Reverend Judith Wilson, a very similar service to what would have been conducted in the Church over the past few centuries.
     The Book of Common Prayer Communion, as the service is known, is a regular service, and is offered on the second and fourth Sundays of each month, beginning at 10:30 am. Holy Communion is offered on the first and third Sundays of each month, also at 10:30 am, and when a fifth Sunday of the month occurs, a Morning Prayer is offered at 10:30 am. A Holy Communion is offered regularly – 11:00 am each Wednesday – in the Elaine Herbert House or Prior Court, both of which are located on the Hospital grounds. The Church also offers social events and programs, such as bible studies and a Coffee Morning which is held on the first Saturday of each month, from 10:00-11:30 am in the Mackintosh Room. A complete list of these services, events and programs can be found on the Church of St. Helen’s official website.
     It might seem that, when looking at the impressive calendar of events and programs offered, the Church of St. Helen is still very much alive, but a very different story is told by the congregation itself: the body of the Church is made up primarily of the elderly residents of The Great Hospital. Aside from Alli and myself, none of the attendees looked to be much younger than sixty years of age, save for a young mother and her three small children who left halfway through the service. There couldn’t have been more than thirty parishioners total, and the overall emptiness of the Church was noticeable. Despite an impressive calendar of events which might suggest that the Church is thriving, it is obvious upon visiting that the truth is rather the opposite.
     Regardless, those who were in attendance were a cheerful and friendly bunch. One gentleman who walked in, supported by a wooden cane, smiled at Alli and me and said warmly, “Good morning, young ones!” Several minutes later, the Reverend Judith Wilson greeted us personally and welcomed us to the Church. This welcoming atmosphere continues even after the service had ended. A woman who was seated a few ahead of us turned around and struck up conversation, asking us where we were from and what we were studying, etc. Several other women approached us, handed us fliers and leaflets, encouraged us to take a look around the Church and offered information about the building at certain artifacts and relics within it.
     The friendly and personal tone was carried through the service itself, as well, as Reverend Judith Wilson delivered a pleasant, rather colloquial – and even humorous – sermon. This surprised me, as I was expecting – however ignorantly – to bear witness to a more puritanical and lofty oration. My expectations were met, however, by the choice in hymns and the language used in the spoken prayers. Some of the hymns were written as early at the eighteenth century – a far cry from the twentieth century “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey which the band at my Church in New York once performed. The songs were dated and joyless to my ears. The prayers, too, were dated. They were written in Early Modern rather than Modern English. Here, I got my fill of the ‘thee’s, ‘thou’s and ‘thine’s that I was fully expecting to hear.
     Another aspect of the service which I found surprising was Holy Communion. Rather than receiving Communion at the front of the Church where the Reverend preached, Communion was received in the Lady Chapel at the right-hand-side of the Church, in front of a Georgian-style board which listed the Ten Commandments. Additionally, in lieu of forming a queue which advances toward the stationary clergyman, the parishioners lined up and kneeled before the board, and the Reverend moved down the line, offering Communion to each person. When that group had all received Communion, they stood and left, and a second group came, kneeled, and the process repeated.
     A few moments of sheer boredom aside, I did enjoy the service at the Church of St. Helen. It was interesting to observe and participate in the service of a denomination of Christianity which is different from the one in which I normally participate, and it was truly amazing to meditate on the fact that generations upon generations had sought nourishment – spiritual or corporal – within the walls of the Church of St. Helen.

Hours Logged: 1.5

Total Hours Logged: 4

Tags: Anya

There’s a Zombie in The Birdcage!: Poetry in Norwich

March 1st, 2010 · 1 Comment

The Birdcage resident cat and Russell J. Turner hosting

Last week, I attended the every third Wednesday of the month poetry Cabaret, HEADCRASH, run by local poet, Russell Turner. It features other local poets in the small coffee shop atmosphere of  The Birdcage Pub.

This month’s cabaret featured a phenomenal line-up. It began with the prose pieces by Cora Benzie, who began by offering the disclaimer that the male narrator of her pieces was not her. Normally prose performed drags on and is a bit hard to follow, but not this. Not only was it edgy and enthralling, but the short length and detailed narrative made it easy to follow. Next up was Roger the Zombie who seemed to do a stand-up comedy rant against everything… followed by John William Brown who read some poignant post Valentine’s Day poems. Unlike most poems of this holiday, these touched on the loss of loved ones and the love of family members. Then the host, Russell J. Turner stepped into the line-up to fill in a for a few people who couldn’t make it. He performed a piece inspired by words found on a random generator—the idea was credited to Tim Clare of Aisle 16, who I talked about in my past entry. After a short drink break, the show ended with two final acts: Stevie Watson and Hannah Jane Walker. Watson performed, among other pieces, a poem called, “Technology Scares Me.” She also had the most amazing English or something accent ever! Walker closed with a large group of poems ranging from pieces about apologies to all the things that you want to tell the person you care about, but instead you are a jerk.

Andrew accompanied me and actually enjoyed poetry!

All in all, the line-up and performance was great. But the best thing about the whole event was not the performance, but the fact that I got to successfully introduce poetry to my friend, Andrew Barron. Thanks for coming Andrew, and I am so glad you had a good time! In the future, The Birdcage holds events every Wednesday, which rotate between music poetry, and comedy. I definitely recommend checking it out! It is only a pound to sit on couches and watch the show!

Hours: 2.5

Total Hours: 5.5

Tags: Megan