Photos and Text by the Rev. Chris Repp
Lutheran Ecumenical Representative
Central/Southern Illinois Synod
I attended the Byzantine Vespers on Tuesday night of the workshop, held in St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church and led by His Grace, the Most Reverend John Bura, apostolic administrator of the Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, OH. I have a lot of experience with Orthodox churches, having lived in Russia for four years, but I have never been to an eastern church in full communion with Rome. The meeting of East and West was striking: stained glass windows and pews alongside orthodox icons and fixtures, and an Orthodoxy-style icon of the newly beatified John Paul II up front in a place of honor.
I had an interesting experience during the service. We chanted a rather long psalm, which used a refrain like we normally do on Sundays in my congregation – except that the refrain was sung after every single verse. My initial reaction (which I kept to myself) was “Oh, come on! This is ridiculous, we’re going to be here all night!” But by the time we had finished – and it did take a while – I had changed my mind. There was something about the repetition of that refrain over and over again that enriched the praying of that psalm. And I didn’t really have anywhere else to be that evening, except going out for dinner afterwards. I also came to appreciate the rotation of the verses among the vested leaders around the altar. They each used a different tone, some of which seemed as if they might have been made up on the spot. It reminded me just a little of jam sessions with the bluegrass band I played with in high school. Were they up there signaling to each other that they just thought of a good tone and would take the next verse? Maybe they’re not allowed to have that much fun with the liturgy, but I imagined that they were enjoying themselves. In sum, this was a good example of worship not being about me and my personal concerns or tastes, but drawing me out of my comfort zone and into the life of the wider church.