I know it's a bit late but I keep getting distracted. Anyway, to have posted this over Christmas would have felt churlish - now we're in miserable old January it seems more appropriate to have a moan.
I think the Christmas Eve midnight mass should be traditional and short. Why? Because it attracts a high proportion of infrequent attenders at church who want to hear something recognisable and because it's late at night, certainly way past my current bedtime.
So why did the vicar at my local church think it was a good idea to give the congregation a convoluted and lengthy service that required two printed sheets and a hymn book to navigate?
Simply from a logistical point of view this was impractical. I found myself getting lost across the three documents as we were required to switch constantly one to another (strangely, the chosen hymns were to be found in all three). And juggling them along with the lighted candle we were to hold for the first half of the service was a quite comically impossible challenge. Everyone around me at some point dropped something.
What's more the language - which previously at that church has been from the Book of Common Prayer - was from a more modern source, uninspiring and unpoetic. I suspect this was why we had resort to printed sheets rather than a prayer book. (We also had lots of smells and bells - not to my taste but evidence that some aspects of traditionalism still seem to appeal).
Then to continue the service for over an hour, including a fifteen-minute repetitive sermon?
Why do this? The vicar probably gets some sort of satisfaction from stamping his own imprint on the service. He would also talk about relevance and accessibility, I'm sure.
But, of course, that's nonsense. It was merely confusing, frustrating and, in the end, boring. It's enough to make you despair of the Church of England ever being able to play to its real strengths, which other than the beauty of its buildings, lie in the familiarity and poetry of its liturgical traditions. These should be relied upon unapologetically and invariably. But I would guess that there's little to no chance of that attitude returning.