I rarely go to church these days but for good Friday I thought I should make an exception. Anne likes going to church so she came along too. We went to St John's Presbyterian at Annerley
So why did I go? I went for the same reason that most go: To praise the Lord. I am immensely thankful for the truth and wisdom I find in the Bible and am as such clearly a product of the Protestant Christian tradition.
Would I still have been the same person without my years of Bible study? Perhaps. But I am sure that Bible teachings have helped me to live a wiser life. I was 17 in 1960 and the 60s are now legendary as a time when many young people cast off all restraints, often harming themselves and their relationships in the process. But Christian ideas of self-restraint protected me from all that. I not only took no drugs but I was even teetotal, in the best Presbyterian way. So you see that I had a lot to be thankful for when I went to church this morning and my going there was an expression of appreciation for that.
And it did feel like coming home. St John's is very much a traditional Presbyterian church -- right down to the fact that there were no pictures or statues of anything on display and not a single cross to be seen. As Exodus 20:4 says: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." That could hardly be clearer and Presbyterians take their Bible seriously. In theology they are iconoclasts.
Yet the interior of the church is beautiful. It does have colour -- some very attractive patterned leadlights -- but the main point about the decor is all the old polished wood. You can smell old polished wood when you first walk into older Presbyterian churches. It is a very sentimental smell to me and tells me I am in the right place. The whole well-kept interior generally tells me that: The pipe organ centrally placed at the focus of attention and lots of small details. It gives me the feeling that I am among my own people ("My ain folk", as the Scots say). The shot below gives you a general idea of the decor.
Presbyterians are an independent lot so each church has its own traditions and each minister does things a little differently. The minister on this occasion seemed to do more prayers than usual and yet did not at any stage lead us in the Lord's prayer, which was unusual. And he did not speak extempore in his sermon at all. He just read out his sermon from a prepared text. It was a perfectly good and devout sermon but would have been a lot more engaging if it had been delivered as a talk.
A couple of other oddities: In the long prayer at the beginning of the service it is customary to pray for "the Queen and all the members of the Royal family". He left that out. Another customary part of that prayer is to pray for the conversion of the Jews. I was glad that he left out that bit. Jews are already a holy people. I suggested to him afterward that a better prayer in today's world would be to pray for the safety of the Jews.
My Good Friday visit to St John's pleased me enough so that I will probably go there again for my next church visit -- at Christmas.
When we got home at about 10am, Anne and I breakfasted on hot cross buns. And for much of the rest of the day I watched and listened to lots of Bach on video. In particular I listened to the John passion right through. A very appropriate thing for good Friday.
Then that evening, Jenny put on a good Friday dinner for a few of us -- featuring fish. Jenny is a very good fish cook. Some of us were of nominal Catholic background so Jenny was respecting that, I guess. Food regulations are not part of the Protestant tradition. It's the booze that bothers us.
As Kate works in psychology, we got to talk quite a bit about psychological assessment -- with me being very skeptical about most current methods of psychological assessment. Probably a bit unkind of me but dispelling illusions has to be kind in the end and psychometrics is my special field.
A musical update: Anne did not accompany me to Jenny's dinner as she had a prior arrangement to go to the cathedral for a Good Friday concert with her sister. And that worked out a bit amusingly.
During the day, for part of which Anne was present, I had actually listened to Bach's John passion right through twice. So what was the program at the cathedral? It was the John passion! So Anne got the John passion that day willy nilly. Lucky she likes it. The performance at the cathedral appears to have been competent but would have been much enhanced by the venue. The great stone arches of the Metropolitical cathedral of St John give a brilliant sound and of course are particularly suited to sacred music.
So what did I put on for music when Anne got back to my place that night? The Passio Secundum Johannem!