St Ann’s Church is a very traditional looking church building, right in the centre of town, off Deansgate. It is near the Town Hall, and near the eponymous St Ann’s square. St Ann’s is a member of the Church of England. http://stannsmanchester.com/
I have been to St Ann’s two times and both times I had very different experiences.
The first time, I arrived late for the evensong service, wearing my biker jacket. I asked the man standing outside the door if this was St Ann’s and he replied “yes, but there is a service on now”, implying that he thought I had come to look around rather than to worship. This might have been because I was late, because I hadn’t been there before, or because he didn’t think I looked like the church-going type.
Once inside however, I was taken aback by how magnificent the building was. It was absolutely beautiful, as the picture below will hopefully show. The stained glass was very artistic, including one image of Solomon replete with Masonic iconography, and all of this created a very strong, reverential atmosphere.
While I did not have an opportunity to meet any of the congregation, my impression was that they were around aged around 30-60, mostly wearing suits, looking quite business like. Against the imposing majesty of this large church the worshippers looked a little dwarfed. Of course this only reflects those who were at the Evensong, the morning services could be quite different. The music was absolutely fantastic, with a very talented choir and a booming organ. This brought some serious nostalgia to me, reminding me of evensong services at my school chapel. I find when listening to choral music an excellent time for self-reflection.
The sermon was by an ex university chaplain, who was (relevantly!) discussing different types of church and theology. She began by a discussion of Simon Magus, the magician mentioned in Acts 8 who tries to buy the power of the apostles from Peter. Simon has got a lot of bad press since then, having a sin named after him (simony) and being called the “father of all heresies” by the Church Fathers. She shared that when she was a chaplain, she sometimes had students who came up to her asking for advice about which church to go to. When she asked their preferences, they would say “I don’t mind, as long as there is lively worship.” As someone who is critical of the emotionalism of “lively worship” and who, quite frankly, finds it embarrassing to lift my hands in the air or have ecstatic experiences on demand, this struck a chord with me. She discussed the importance of theology within churches, something that many student Christians, in my experience, aren’t too bothered about. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time that sunday, despite the rocky start.
The second time I went to church at St Ann’s, I thought it would be a similar Evensong service and I was looking forward to the powerful music. When I arrived, however, I found out that it was a special “Taize” worship service.
To put it briefly, Taize is an ecumenical (multi-denominational) community in the south of France. It consists largely of monks, although many lay people make pilgrimages there. One 20-year-old I have met has been there six times! Churches across the world have sought to emulate the Taize style and sometimes hold Taize services. The Taize worship style is marked by its simplicity and repetition. There is no sermon, and no traditional hymns. The service consisted of repetition of 2-line chants, sometimes in English, sometimes Latin, sometimes German, to reflect the international orientation of the community. The bible reading is similarly repeated multiple times. While I enjoyed the Taize services, I think the congregation were more comfortable with traditional choral services, as at times the chanting, accompanied only by a piano, was rather quiet. Also Taize services do not end in the same way as normal services, but instead people keep chanting for as long as they want. This led to a little confusion, with some people not knowing when to stop, but looking like they wanted to go!
I enjoyed my time at St Ann’s, and will probably go back for a morning service some time. I would recommend it for anyone who likes traditional choral hymns in a traditional setting. I must also say that the sermon was fantastic and quite intellectually engaging.
Here is a link to their “What’s on this week” page: http://www.stannsmanchester.com/images/stories/whatson/whatson.pdf
Their midweek activities seem to consist of a lot of Holy Communions, so there aren’t many ways of interacting with the church other than attending on sunday.
The Church Shopper