Sunday, May 23, 2010

Christ Church and Cracker Barrel

I went to Christ Church, New Haven this morning with my friend John for the solemn high mass of Pentecost. If you've never been to Christ Church you probably should go some day. It is simply the most elegant, lovely expression of High Church Episcopal worship around. You'd have to go to New York or Boston to come close to matching it. Lots of smoke and chanting and beautiful music (the best choir money can buy--mostly grad students in music from Yale). And not a sound system to be had. That and the haunting acoustics add to the mystery of it all.

I once took a friend of mine, years ago, to Christ Church for a special mass. At the door she said to the Rector, who celbrates 60 or 70 feet from the nearest chair with his back to the congregation, "I couldn't hear a word you sang." He replied, with a gentle smile, "I wasn't singing to you...."

I counted 7 folks in collars in the congregation, plus one other priest, who like me, didn't wear one. Plus the five priests in the service. I don't understand the collar fetish--of course since I haven't worn one for 6 years or so, I wouldn't. Like St. John's, Waterbury--but for vastly different reasons--Christ Church is a priest magnet. And being in New Haven there are a lot more priests around who aren't busy on Sunday morning and come for the show. However, "show" is the wrong word for it--it truly is beautiful and holy. It would drive me crazy on a regular basis--the Mass lasted an hour and a half and there were 7 hymns along with 4 pieces for the choir. But once in a while, it is a real richness that I profoundly enjoy.

Then, after talking to some of the people, John and I went to Cracker Barrel in Milford for breakfast--at about 12:30 pm!

Cracker Barrel is a cultural link to the past for people who grew up south of the Mason-Dixon line (John grew up in Grantstown, WV and we both went to WVU). And breakfast--which is why we go--is just the way it should be. You could get better biscuits and gravy at almost any restaurant in North Carolina but there is almost no where in New England besides Cracker Barrel that you can get it at all. (I did find a place in rural New Hampshire once that had great biscuits and it might be you have to get into the 'country' in New England to find a country breakfast.)

John had pancakes, sausage, eggs and the home fry casserole. I had biscuits and gravy, grits (the best salt and butter delivery device I know of), eggs and sausage and the h'f casserole. We both ate so much we felt a tad ill and a lot full. We sort of rolled out of the place and were so disoriented by carbohydrates and fat that we had trouble finding John's car.

During the meal, John said, "You know we both know people who would make us feel uncomfortable eating this much of this stuff...."

"They're just in denial of their Inner Grease-Eater," I opined.

Christ Church and Cracker Barrel are a bit alike in that they are almost too much of a good thing. The Anglo-Catholic liturgy is bordering on 'precious'--just the way the celebrant, deacon and sub-deacon move around in such precise choreography and how they hold back his cope as he prepares the altar, like pages holding the robes of the King. And Cracker Barrel is ruled over by highly trained acolytes as waiters and waitresses. Everything precise and too much food no matter what you order.

I said to John as we sat in the dimly lit sanctuary (even the lighting is dramatic) "I don't suppose there's any chance they'll hand out red balloons during the service." He replied, "there is even less than 'no chance' of that...." I am a devotee of balloon liturgies and I normally eat cereal and fruit for breakfast. But once in a while, Christ Church and Cracker Barrel simply hit the spot that is longing to be hit....Really.

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.