Conversation with Seminarian Zachary Fletcher
How have you enjoyed your time in Spain?
I've enjoyed it a lot. I spent my first few weeks here with Yale's Institute of Sacred Music, first doing a study trip around central Spain (Toledo, Madrid, Burgos), and then on a tour with my (now former) choir Yale Schola Cantorum, in which we traced the Camino de Santiago (Roncesvalles, Burgos, León, Santiago). (We did walk the last two kilometers of the Camino Frances, but otherwise we were in a bus.) Over the last four weeks, I've been in Madrid taking my first-ever Spanish lessons and helping out as needed at the Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer. Each phase of my time in Spain has had different goals, people, and styles of living. Of course my favorite part of my time here in Spain has been the friends I've made, both at the Cathedral and elsewhere. They've adopted me as part of their family, helping me adapt to aspects of Spanish culture I've found challenging (such as late lunches and dinners, and what often seems to be a flexibility of scheduling). Without them, I'd be lost, and wouldn't come to understand Spain in any remotely authentic way. I would not trade this experience in Spain for anything.
What are your thoughts now about the Spanish Episcopal Church in Spain? What are your wishes for it?
The Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church (IERE) is a fascinating phenomenon that needs to be experienced by any Christian, especially Anglican, who's interested in the history of ecclesiology, ecumenism, and the interaction between religion and society in a country like Spain. It doesn't really get any more interesting than the IERE when it comes to these aspects of church history, even more so because so many people don't know what the IERE is, or its place in the Anglican Communion. For these reasons, my wish for the IERE is that it become better known throughout the world, both in the Anglican Communion and outside it.
What do you see as the value of establishing a summer supervised ministry in Madrid for Berkley seminarians?
The value of such a Supervised Ministry would be considerable for any Berkeley seminarian who has already completed, or plans to complete, their required term-time and CPE internships in an American context, and who is then interested in expanding their horizons into new geographic and ecclesiastical territory. For anyone who lacks experience in serving Hispanic communities, the Cathedral of the Redeemer is a good place to learn something about that. (Yes, it may surprise some when I describe this Cathedral as "Hispanic" and not exclusively European Spanish, but demographically and in terms of the worship style of many services, I would say it is both Hispanic and Spanish.) And it follows that, for those who are already accustomed to Hispanic congregations, it would be interesting to observe how, in their view, the Cathedral community differs from other Hispanic communities in North America they already know. This Cathedral has something to offer any seminarian who is open to having new experiences in an unfamiliar place, with a community that supports and welcomes you.
What's been some of your most memorable experiences with us?
Among them, they are: My first day, when I arrived and immediately went to work helping with the food ministry, putting bags together. (I had no idea what was going on, or what people were saying, since I hadn't started Spanish lessons yet. But I sensed that the community was happy to have me, despite my cluelessness!)
You´ve now experienced Sunday morning service here, the food bank ministry, one of the largest in Madrid, weekend with Rvdo Aloysi Busquet in Torrejon, Taize services, our expanding 12 step ministry. What would you like Americans to know about these ministries? Do they differ from what you expected?
Overall, the ministries here are quite different from what I've experienced in the USA. While I've been part of American parishes that had some ministries focused on helping disadvantaged and at-risk people, such as food distribution and 12-step programs, these programs were typically not featured in the life of the parish and its parishioners, or at least were not as voluminous. Here in the IERE, the focus is very much social service, not as much liturgy or music, as far as I can tell. For instance, I was surprised to see that here at the Cathedral, people who come to food distribution on Wednesdays and Saturdays also come to Vespers, which always precedes food distribution. The integration, or at least close contact, between liturgy and social service is not something I've personally seen in the Episcopal Church. This seems to me a different way of doing church.
What are some of the differences for you between the American Episcopal Church and the Spanish Episcopal Church? Are there similarities?
In addition to what I've said above, the liturgical lives of the ECUSA and the IERE are overall very different. Two substantial differences that come to mind are 1) music style and medium; and 2) Eucharistic frequency. In terms of musical style, Wednesday and Saturday Vespers services at the Cathedral use music that is stylistically in tune with music used in many Latin American contexts, including in some Episcopal churches. However, the key difference from my experience in the USA is that here, at Vespers, neither the musician volunteers (guitarist & singers) nor the congregation gathered use musical notation to learn or sing the songs. While the guitarist may be looking at some chords, as for the rest of those gathered, they have only the words to guide them, and are expected to learn the music aurally. And even though the musical style changes on Sunday to something more familiar to someone from my context (i.e., hymns with organ), as at Vespers all the service music (the Ordinary of the Mass and/or canticles) has been learned aurally by the congregation over the course of years, and with the help of the organist (who accompanies using a master-copy of the musical notation), people sing the service music using only the words and no musical notation. In short, except for the hymns which come from the Himnario Cristiano, all music in the life of the Cathedral exists in aural form, and in that sense forms part of an oral tradition. Contrastingly, in the ECUSA, the parishes I've been in rely on musical notation, even those parishes that don't have choirs. (Also different was the music in the IERE communities I visited in Torrejón de Ardoz and Navalcarnero, which used pre-recorded Christian karaoke tracks from online sources, with the occasional help of a cantor singing along.) The second difference between the ECUSA and the IERE is Eucharistic frequency. In the Cathedral, Communion is only administered once every two weeks, on Sundays. As suggested by aspects of the Cathedral's interior design (e.g., no statues, no pictures in the stained-glass windows, no reserved sacrament; and yet lots of scriptural passages written in Spanish adorning the nave and chancel, complete with an open Bible on the altar at all times), this bimonthly frequency of Communion could be part of the IERE's heritage as a church that has historically sought to differentiate itself from the Catholic Church, and as such has cooperated with several different Protestant denominations throughout its history, especially Presbyterians. Contrastingly, in the Episcopal Church, I have been part of parishes where Communion is the principal service every Sunday, and may even be administered every weekday.
How has this experience impacted you and what will you take with you as you leave and return to your work in the United States?I've been blessed to witness, and be part of, an example of the diversity of Anglicanism, and of the wider Church, that I had not experienced beforehand. I've also been blessed to witness, and be part of, a church community that puts social service first. My experience in this new, unfamiliar context is preparing me well for another year of chaplaincy training, itself a form of social service, in which the circumstances are always changing and unfamiliar, and in which I have to always be sensitive to diverse needs, including among Spani