The morning started out a bit cold so I wore my Trachten jacket over the Dirndl, but when I arrived at the council place, most of the women had either the Festival Tract on which is black, or a dark shawl, I felt I stood out like a sore thumb, even though they said I looked ‘Fesch’ (smart). I chatted to a friend who’d studied English with me, which helped my nerves. I couldn’t lose the jacket having come in someone else’s car. We then got ordered to line up, three abreast, starting on the left foot. It was easy to follow the band up the hill to the church and we piled in.
The service wasa typical Mass, with lots of bobbing up and down – the Priest even caught the congregation out once and we did a quick down then up! Loads of incense and clanging bells. Sadducees I cried inside. I just couldn’t do the dabbing of the Holy water, the bobbing at the pew end,the genuflection and crossing myself. I was reminded of how Paul says not to offend those weaker than you in the faith and should observe their customs. Should I make myself as not part of something when I was actually taking part? Or should I stand up for the long gone persecuted Protestants in the region who suffered for their faith by taking part in this thing but adhering to my beliefs? I don’t know. When Communion took place I stood aside. Its seems more effecient than our service with no wine and a conveyor belt of hosts, quickly over to save time. Deeply spiritual? Hmmmmm. Once I calmed down about my bright jacket I managed to relax a bit.
Service over, we lined up outside the church and marched off behind the band and did three stops around the village. Being on the left, I ended up being on the front as we turned to the left to make a line. I could hear a couple of women going ‘left, right, no, right left’ behind me and wanted to giggle. By the third stop, I stopped jumping at the cannon but still couldn’t do the crossing myself. Maybe they would just put it down to my foreigness! I could agree with the prayers and did so, they were all based on the gospels and simply said Jesus s the bread of life and no more. We marched back to the church through the village where the Priest went back in the church and the Firebrigade, us, the brother hood all marched to the Pub! I had my photo taken as the new mad foreign member and we all had a free drink. The band was sitting with us and suddenly took up their instruments and played a polka – turned out you could request a tune. My neighbour asked for one for me, and I was sooooo relieved I didnt have to get up and dance! I chatted to others at the table, and then was quiet at others pretty much as I’d be in the UK. Soon it was time to go and I felt like giggling as I said I can’t come next time as its our Protestant church service!
So I left feeling it was ok. There was an assumption in all the readings that Jesus is the bread of life, and there was no dogmatic saying you must believe the host actually turns into his body. I was accepted by the gang. As tradition as compared to belief it was quite ok. I think I’ll go again, Harvest festival I have no problems with and when I get the kit I can go with the gang to the more cultural festivals rather than religious. I think for most there, it was custom not faith here. Maybe its a way to make links between the two churches. Another Austrian experience under the belt!