I went to the Easter Sunday service at Manchester cathedral feeling pretty motivated. I had been meaning to visit it for a while, as some I’ve lived here for nearly 3 years and I still hadn’t seen the inside yet. It was another beautiful day, and Easter sunday is an extremely significant event, symbolizing the new creation of a new heaven and a new earth through the resurrection of Jesus. Rowan Williams writes about this at length in his book Tokens of Trust.
The late afternoon was filled with young couples enjoying sunshine outside the pub and groups of floppy-fringed teenagers rolling comedy sized cigarettes (green tobacco for extra chuckles.) In this casual atmosphere I walked into appears from the outside to be a somewhat imposing building, Manchester Cathedral.
When inside I was immediately greeted by a smell so strong and pungent I thought it was the work of said floppy-fringed teenagers, but it turns out that they do actually use incense in Church services. Incense: not just for hippies. The light was shining throught he beautiful stained glass window and adding a majestic air to my tardy joining of the service. Even though the Cathedral isn’t that big, relatively, they cordoned off only a small part of it with extremely intricate gothic architecture near the choir.
The service was quite interesting, if surprisingly down-to-earth for a church that uses incense. The dean told of his recent excursion to Costa Coffee, which has the slogan “every cup is made with love” and tries to present the aesthetic of being a small family run chain while actually being a multinati0nal corporation. I did not see the Easter relevance, until the dean started explaining his problems with the phrase “every cup is made with love.” It diminishes what love is, making it merely “every cup is not intended to poison the customer,” a far cry from “made with love.” God loves each creature, and made them because of this, even giving himself in order to demonstrate the power of his love more fully on Good Friday. These criticisms of consumerist shallowness were dramatically ironic, considering my church experience directly afterwards, but more on that later. The congregation was facing the dean from the sides, like some dreadful pincer attack, and I think this is one of the things that added to the confusion of the service. I was not sure when to sit, stand or sing, and I am sure I was not the only one. Usually a cursory “please sit” is in order but even this pleasantry was abandoned. The general lack of instructions made it even more glaring when one was given, and it was probably the most complicated one possible in that setting. We were to follow the choir, while singing, holding hymn books and orderly leaving our isles for a promenade around the cathedral ending with sung worship in the garden. I wondered whether we were going to play Simon Says next. It turns out that the garden was not outside and consisted of a cool fake palm try and a papier mache cave. I am ashamed of how long it took me to realize what this symbolized, but in my defense I was mostly focussing on the surreality of a palm tree next to a statue of a saint in an Anglican cathedral.
After the service I bumped into the former Manchester international students chaplain, and he invited me along to another church afterwards, one I had heard of but been apprehensive to go to, but John assured me that we had safety in numbers. That is what took me to the most interesting, if only from a journalistic/anthropological point of view, church of my Easter weekend, and it certainly lives up to its name: Audacious!