Home I come from church, mulling over ideas, music, imagery, commitments made and renewed. I miss interacting with the vivid CCC community, but 3-D life doesn’t allow us to have everything all at once. For an hour a week, we are worshipping in a different room of the big Church.
In this hour, a treasure chest is opened and various riches are spread before us all and before God. I go home feeling spiritually renewed, fed, challenged. I go home still fingering, in my mind, the treasures of the worship service.
It starts with sitting quietly in a beautiful room. But it’s not totally silent. There’s an organ playing. This morning the organist started by playing something very beautiful on the piano and then moved over to play the organ. You can unfold the kneeler and spend the time in prayer. I read over the readings in the bulletin and pray.
The cross is borne down the aisle and row after row the people bow as it passes. This introduces and underlines the central theme of the day and the reverent bow (an optional gesture but one I am trying to get used to) helps my mind to follow suit.
A sprinkling of hymns are sung in the course of the service–3 to 5. In my Presbyterian church days, I thought they were arbitrarily interspersed in the worship service, but I understand now that they are intentionally placed and themed to suit the flow of the service. When they come back to my mind later in the week, I look up their lyrics — it’s easier to reflect on the words when I’m not also trying to learn the tune.
There are the Bible readings to consider–part of a psalm is read corporately, an Old Testament and New Testament readings are read by someone from the congregation, and then a little procession brings a ceremonial New Testament (?) down the aisle into the congregation’s midst and the celebrant reads the Gospel reading. The congregation rises in honor–again the gesture reinforces the relationship. The readings sometimes interact with the Christian Year or with one another in thought-provoking ways.
There is a sermon but it is brief–10 to 15 minutes. It is based on one or more of the readings–usually the gospel reading. Often the presenter focuses on the message of one reading while attempting to pick up a stitch from one of the other readings–making the obvious or less-than-obvious connection.
I am equal parts delighted and cautious about this approach. The brevity allows the sermon to fit the flow of the service instead of dominating it. What the preacher has to say is not the only word or the last word in the service, and that’s interesting to me, coming as I do from a different tradition where the sermon is the main event and lasts roughly 45 minutes. The briefer sermon allows one to take a “bite” that is large enough to be thought-provoking and nourishing but not so large as to be overwhelming or indigestible in a single sitting.
Exploring the cross pollination between the days’ Bible readings is very illuminating. But my sense of caution about this is that the texts, while they are nice-sized chunks, could be unmoored from their context if the preacher is not careful. This could be a deal-breaker for me. We are waiting to see how the new rector deals with this.
Throughout the service are responsive readings, statements of faith, and prayers of various kinds.
The communion (the eucharist, it is called in this tradition) has struck me as mystical every single time I’ve taken it. One minute I’m standing in line with a mundane assortment of humanity, fat, thin, stooped, limping, elderly, young, toddling, well-dressed, shabby–and the next, I’m kneeling on a red cushion in the light of the huge stained glass window and my senses are short-circuiting as everything has reduced down to a halo’d moment with a hand offering a silver cup of wine, a voice saying gently, “blood of Christ – cup of salvation,” and the thick sweet bitterness in my mouth.
The treasures of the service are multi-sensory. We sing, recite psalms, bow, kneel, taste, listen, and see–I have barely touched on the visual aspect of the service–the cross, the stained glass windows, the robes, the vestments, the arched ceiling, the worn oak floor, the beauty of the room in color and proportion–but I find those to be part of the treasure of worship as well.