Saturday, February 14, 2009

St. Bede's and Bruton Parish Church

Last week this time Rod and I were in Williamsburg. We went to St. Bede's for Mass and it's a puzzling place. When we first arrived I was struck by how odd it looks. They have a large lobby with a sofa and chairs and tables. It's tasteful but reminded me of the visitor center at the Mormon temple in Maryland. The sacristy, parish office, parochial vicar and pastor's offices are just off the main lobby. We walked around a bit and then went into the actual church. It's one of those church in the round designs from the '70s and the decor is very plain. White walls and no stained glass. They have a large crucifix that makes Jesus look like a short body builder and a disturbing statue of Mary and baby Jesus. For some reason Mary has a weirdly thick neck, huge hands and a honker of a nose and baby Jesus looks deformed. There must be a reason for that or maybe the artist came cheap.

The Blessed Sacrament is kept in a separate chapel. Few people visited while we were there and even fewer genuflected as they passed by.

Before Mass the cantor came out and made us all practice the alleluliah. Either she does this all the time or the singing was really off the week before. A couple of times Rocky asked me if I wanted to go. There's a Catholic church in Yorktown and if we really hurried we could've made it. I decided not to risk it so we stayed. I'm glad we did becuase the priest said a completely non-wonky Mass and gave a sterling homily. He seems like a good guy but it looks like he has a lot of work to do with taming his parish. There must have been about 40 eucharistic ministers. When they were standing around the priest all I could see was a glimpse of green.

St. Bede's gets a lot of tourists so no-one stares at strangers and nobody seemed freaked out by the sight of black people, which is always a plus. That and the brave young parochial vicar are the best things I can say about it. Next time we're in Williamsburg I think we'll go to the Catholic chapel at William and Mary Univeristy or to either of the churches in New Kent or Yorktown.

The next day Rod and I were in the historic area of Williamsburg and visited Bruton church. George Washington and Jefferson went to church there among other notables. It's a beautiful old church. The sad thing, and I do mean sad was that this Episcopalian church looked more Catholic than St. Bede's.


Garret Girmus said...

Thank goodness you went to St. Bede's instead of the parish in Yorktown, or the campus chapel at the College of William and Mary.

a thorn in the pew said...

Interesting. There are many good young priests and seminarians poised to fight the fight(thanks be to God)

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Thanks be to God for the young priests putting an end (or trying to) to the Liturgical madness.

berenike said...

How odd. "nobody seemed freaked out by the sight of black people" - are they usually?

A friend of mine told me about some British diplomat, not very religious, but when he was posted to the US he and his wife wanted to try and integrate with the community, and thought that they'd go to church, seeing as most folk seemed to. So they toddled along a church down the road. Everyone looked at them. Then the pastor welcomed them from the pulpit, and asked everyone to congratulate them with him - everyone stood up, turned round to face them and gave them a round of applause. For being white and having gone to a black church.

Is this story as bizarre to Americans as it is to a European?

David L Alexander said...

I went to St Bede's years ago. The "separate chapel" is behind one of the wings of pews, so people actually have their back to it. That's just unacceptable.

There's a Byzantine Catholic church in Williamsburg, Ascension Parish. If I were visiting W'burg, that's where I would go.

Jim said...

I just went to St. Bede's this evening while we are here on vacation. I'm still disturbed about it. It took me quite a while to find the tabernacle, which is barely visible or NOT visible at all from parts of the Church (i.e. the part where you WALK IN and normally genuflect). The music was SOOOOO loud -- electric guitar, elec. bass, drums, piano etc. -- I couldn't find the Crucifix for quite a while either then I noticed it was BEHIND me. No Missals either!

After communinion, the EM's bring the chalices to the lobby area of the church, put them on a rolling cart, like a hospital gurney and whisk them out to somewhere off the lobby. No purification by the priest, no making sure Jesus wasn't still in there -- they didn't even rinse the cup holding the Blood of Christ. I felt so bad about that -- where did they take it, was it ever properly cleaned? I've been to churches where the priest will carefully, methodically and slowly clean every last spec of possible Eucharist and Blood from the chalice's and linens after communion and that is so beautiful but this was like a rush to wheel it to who knows where!

Don't even get me started on this "theatre in the round" type of architecture!

That pipe organ (that they didn't use at their rock concert-- I mean Mass) must have cost at least a quarter million if not more, couldn't they spare a few bucks on some stained glass or sacred art or even decent statues???

Sorry for going on -- it was so upsetting and distracting. Just on the way to the Church my wife was saying how this looks like such a nice area and she wouldn't mind moving down here. I think this banished that thought from her little head!

We said a Rosary for the parish as soon as we got back in our van.