Pilgrimage is a way of life, meaning the peregrine must be attentive to every possible subtle paradox of the walk. However, sometimes the juxtapositions are so obvious even the cosmically blind could “see” them.
Attending Choral Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Dublin seemed the best way to bring a fitting conclusion to our forty-one days in Ireland. We were not disappointed. The beautifully restored Gothic cathedral of the Church of Ireland is a tribute to the majestic beauty of medieval worship space architecture. The worship was sublime. Angelic voices lifted sixteenth-century classical music in praise to God. The liturgy was straight from The Church of Ireland’s Book of Common Prayer (2004), a blend of traditional and contemporary prayers. Listening and participating in worship sitting in the Anglican gem of Ireland was a blissful worship experience. Receiving Eucharist in this holy preserve was a spiritually moving confirmation of God’s holiness found in Anglican sensitivities.
After worship, well, we needed a late lunch—so we went to The Church for a pint and a meal. Built in 1700, the former Anglican St. Mary’s is now a postmodern restaurant. John Wesley preached his first Irish sermon there in 1741. Arthur Guinness was married at St. Mary’s 1761. (Yes, his beer is proudly drawn on tap at The Church.) And Handel regularly played the still intact organ at the Dublin parish no more than six blocks from Christ Church. The building, to this day, contains the entered remains of several famous parishioners.
An exquisite bar right down “the center aisle” has replaced the ground floor church furniture. Comfortable pub furnishings seat customers were once pews boxes ushered the rich to the front.
All I could think of during our excellent lunch was how cool it would be to invite young adults to meet me at The Church for Theology on Tap. My good friend Thad has been encouraging me to add a beer and conversation dialogue that does not include worship to our regular schedule. Our tag line is conversation not conversion. Maybe we could call our newest endeavor, “Philosophy on Tap” and make t-shirts with the slogan “Jesus drank Guinness,” on the front.
Christ Church Cathedral had fewer people in worship than were having Sunday lunch at The Church. Sure, I wish all the houses of worship were packed on Sunday mornings, but that possibility died with the computer punch card. We don’t need to think outside the box, we need to be outside the box.
Two years ago our daughter’s wedding was at Trinity Cathedral. Immediately after the wedding we had dinner in the church courtyard followed by the dance and party in the parish hall. More than a few of her young adult friends told me if church was like this they might consider attending.
I’m not suggesting we turn Church Christ Cathedral, Trinity Cathedral, or any church into a pub. But we might start thinking of ways to make people feel as comfortable, at home, and welcomed as we did when we walked into The Church. I know we can do it—we’re a hospitable people and we like Guinness.
Priest, pilgrim, writer, alchemist—living into the mystery, the knowledge, and the practice of sacred alchemy. I've walked across Ireland, almost 400 miles of mountains, valleys, forests, and magic. The pilgrimage was a mirror of my life's journey, coach, president, priest. Traveler of the life's struggles—from failure to re-imagination—still walking.