The heat was out last Sunday. After a lovely breakfast in the parish hall, we began wandering into the church and taking our pews. Tucker began playing the organ and the music warmed us a little as we wondered at the chill. The acolytes and the choir were lined up in teh little hallway at the end of the church ready to begin the procession when Fr. R came barrelling down the aisle yelling "Stop! Tucker, stop!" The notes died away mid-stanza as everyone gaped. Fr. R then declared that he was not going to be a medieval priest in a stone-cold church - the service was going to be in the parish hall today!
We grabbed hymnals and prayer books and filed back outside, across the courtyard and into the parish hall where tables were hastily taken down and chairs set up in rows to simulate a church-like layout. The fire still crackled into the corner fireplace and the stage area had benches and a table added to an already decorated for Christmas programs stage. It really was quite beautiful.
The piano was pulled out from the wall and the choir had chairs set up on the side. As the music began, the voices of the choir and the congregation rose above the piano and joined together in a beautiful noise. And when the opening hymn was over, and the service began, I swear I saw Fr. R jump a little at the first response, which was loud and strong. His eyes widened as he looked at the people gathered there and it occurred to me that he was experiencing the same kind of thing I was.
In the big church, the ceilings soar. The altar area is even loftier and open and the body of the church is long. When you have 100 people sitting in an area that can hold 300-400 (depending on how friendly you want to get) sound doesn't carry all that well from us to the front. And in spite of the sound system, it works the other way too. If the organ is being played, we can't hear the choir and consequently, our own singing is muted because we can't really follow the music.
But in the parish hall, we were all there responding and singing together and it was LOUD. When it came time to pass the peace, we didn't have to travel as far and we could Peace the choir too! The acolytes were a little at a loss as to how to do the stuff they normally do (no candles to light or snuff) and communion was a bit different as well, but it was actually a really nice service. When it was over, my boy took the crucifix and lead the congregation back to the church so we could return our books to the pews.
It's not something I'd want to do all the time, but everyone being as close to each other as we were was really a beautiful thing. If the heat goes out again, I wouldn't mind doing that again!