Three weeks off
Since my curate returned to Chicago and Fr Al Holland moved to California, it has been difficult for me to take a day off each week. So when the chance came to have two young priests from Cambridge to stay in the Rectory and celebrate the daily Mass and Evensong, I jumped at it.
One was Fr John Hughes, Chaplain of Jesus College, Cambridge, whom I met when he was in the States with the Jesus College Choir. The Master of the College was with them; so when they sang a splendid lunch-time concert here in St Clement’s, I was able, in my welcoming remarks, to say that while some of the St Clement’s congregation were rather keen on the Vicar of Christ, we were able to trump that by welcoming the Master of Jesus. Fr John offered at that time to come and do a short spell as locum the next summer, and with him he brought Fr Andrew Davison, the Tutor in Doctrine of Westcott House, the well-known seminary in Cambridge, who was beginning a few months’ Sabbatical in America. (His new book “The Sacraments” is about to be published). Between them they covered the liturgical and pastoral needs of the parish, and managed not to kill any of the congregation. Locums are not always so lucky, as I shall reveal later.
Thus freed, I took the train to Washington, D.C. and then a cab to the Westchester, a fine 1930s complex of apartments on Cathedral Avenue near the National Cathedral, where an old friend (we met in Holland in 1967) lives. I spent a few days with him before flying to Chicago to stay with Fr John David Van Dooren, the Rector of the Church of the Atonement, Chicago, and formerly Rector of All Souls’ Church, Washington, D.C. It was while Fr John David was Rector there that we met and arranged to swap churches one summer for three weeks. At the time I was Archdeacon of Italy & Malta for the Church of England, and Chaplain of All Saints, Milan, so John David went to Italy and I came and spent three weeks at All Souls, a lovely Episcopal Church in Washington. While I kept all of John David’s parishioners alive, he was not so careful with mine, but had a funeral almost the moment he arrived in Milan! I had agreed to preach on the Sunday I was in Chicago, but had forgotten that there were sermons at all three Masses in the Atonement. So I preached the same sermon in three different “modes”: quiet Low Mass, boisterous Family Mass and solemn High Mass. Atonement had a massive Rummage Sale going on that weekend, and I bought a very smart white summer jacket for $10. The day before, the first day of the sale, they had taken $9000, which indicates the size of the enterprise. The St Clement’s Rummage Sale, which is on Saturday, October 19, will be a much smaller version of this – though we already have some fine icons, statues, books and furniture and there are still three weeks for more to come in.
After four days in Chicago, I flew to San Antonio, Texas, to stay with a retired priest friend whom I have known since he spent a year in Edinburgh in 1961 on an exchange with his seminary in Sewanee, Tennessee. I had a delightful few days there, just sitting in the garden reading or looking round the centre of San Antonio and walking along the famous Riverside Walk, stopping often for coffee or something stronger in some of the cafes and restaurants on the banks of the canal. On the Sunday, we went to Mass in St Paul’s, the Anglo-Catholic church at the gates of Fort Sam Houston.
The next weekend , I was back in D.C. and able to go to a beautifully sung Evensong in the national Cathedral one weekday as well as their Sung Mass on the Sunday. It is always a rare experience for the rector of a parish to get to worship in other churches, since he is usually confined to his own church. However, much as I enjoyed all three churches in Chicago, San Antonio and Washington, I missed St Clement’s. And even though I had a wonderfully peaceful holiday, seeing old friends, eating and drinking with them and catching up on our news, and otherwise just reading and writing, I was very happy to get back to the Rectory at St Clement’s. There is genuinely no place like home.