Friday, July 10, 2009

That Community Feeling

I've been meaning to write this post for a few days now. Don't know why it's taken me so long. Maybe I needed to spend more time mulling over what I experienced.

Last Saturday, July 4th, I was scheduled as officiant for the Morning Prayer (MP). I like doing this because: 1) it's quiet and peaceful, 2) it's a great way to start your day, and 3) it allows me to spend private time in the sanctuary. Because we hold MP at 6:45 AM we don't usually have any visitors even though the service we read has room for giving thanks for them. Typically it's just whoever is officiating alone, reading through the service, and saying prayers for the sick and needy on our list of those in need. But, due to a mix up, last Saturday was different. I showed up a little late, oops! And there was someone already in the sanctuary.

Being a few minutes late isn't a huge deal because MP is almost always done by just the Lay Eucharistic Minister (LEM). Many years ago the decision was made to do it early to avoid conflict with work schedules and rush hour traffic. So we do our praying for the congregation alone and faithfully, and without the need to robe up and make it a full fledged service.

The person already in there was another LEM, Ron, who, like myself, is also a verger. He told me he'd promised to take someone's place. I'm pretty sure it was my day so maybe he was given the wrong date somehow because I know he isn't casual about such things. Oh well, the intent was met no matter the date.

When I saw Ron there I was surprised, of course, but also rather pleased. Ron and I've co-officiated at Healing Eucharists (HE) before and found we work well together. Not wanting to disturb the prayer he might already be saying I quietly walked around and sat down next to him. We decided to share the service and he handed me a Book of Common Prayer (BoCP) open to the point he was at.

We sat there together like old friends, taking turns on the different parts of the service. I read a scripture and he read another. We did the Psalm together alternating by whole verse. We did the same with the other responsive parts. It was a nice and comfortable way to practice something I'm occasionally required to do for the congregation when the priest isn't available to perform the HE. This was much better. It had that warm friendly feel. That's what church community is, right? Friends getting together to worship? And that's a change I've noticed in the services I officiate at since I entered verger training. They are more comfortable. They feel friendlier, I'm more relaxed, I feel comfortable with modifying things a bit if the spirit moves me, and I've gotten compliments on the results. I guess I'm starting to fit the role of LEM and Verger better. And I really like it.

When I found my faith it was during the 80's movement and personal relationships with Jesus were all the rage. The church I became a believer in was nondenominational charismatic and I became quite use to the feeling of the Holy Spirit's presence during the service and in my life. Services and sermons were more casual and heart felt. While there was a structure, there was nothing very ritualized about them. That's been a real problem for me since I returned to my Episcopal roots. I don't find the spirit in the high toned ritualized words that we say every Sunday. My emotions used to be moved at every service. Not here in the Episcopal ritual. If I didn't know God meant me to be at this specific church I'd probably change because that's what I did when the bible got boring, I changed versions to read it in one that was different and thus more interesting. But I won't change churches now. I've been learning about service at Church of Reconciliation Episcopal and growing into the understanding of what it means to be part of a community.

It's become a source of comfort to realize that I am part of a community. Sitting there beside Ron I felt like I'd come home! And it was VERY spiritual! A few years ago our church viewed some videos on Everyday Spirituality. We learned about spirituality of place, activity, and ritual! That's what I found in that MP service. I wish I could feel it everyday of my life. I wish I could have it at every service.

We've started to make a lot of changes at Reconciliation. They are often small but none of them are without meaning. Because life often presents itself as change I think this has made me more interested in our worship services. The ritual and the dance of its participants has changed. That makes it interesting and a new source of study. Instead of coming to the table we "set the table" during the service. That's much more involved and involving. Actions seem to have more meaning and thus more significance. If this is finding the sacred in the ordinary, a phrase given to me by JS, then I've been doing a mental disconnect because I never thought of Sunday services as ordinary till they became routine.

These days when I sit in church I sit with a community, a community of singers a.k.a the choir. Our practice nights are my social night. Sunday morning breakfast is also a time for community. I eat at Brown Hall (fellowship hall) and often have others to spend time with sharing our interests, weeks activities, and getting to know them better. It's a change in me that keeps me there, no longer going early to pre-service warm up to get organized but instead, chatting till I'm rushing to get to the warm up on time. I know there are things missing from my community interactions. Saturday's experience showed me that. But they will happen in time as I heal, grow into fullness of understanding and connectedness, and am ready to present myself and my world to the body in joy, knowing that they will be one with me in our shared love of what we've built.


Sandi McBride said...

It's always a pleasure to learn more about other friends beliefs and how they came to the Lord. I came to the Lord in the summer of 1958 in a small Baptist Church that my Grandparents had built and dedicated. It was considered a Mission at the time and our hero was Lottie Moon. We gave willingly to this noble little woman who helped the poor, mainly in China. I often heard my Grandmother say that sometimes God knocked us to our knees so that He could pick us up. I never understood that untill I was in my 20's. Then it was all made clear. I'll post on it one day.
Praying with a friend makes the verse that reads "where one or more of ye are gathered in My name, there I am also" more poignant. Lovely post, Lee

Lee said...

I'm looking forward to reading that story, Sandi! "When ever two or more..." is EXACTLY what Ron and I commented to each other when the service was done.

I remember hearing about Lottie Moon but I don't think I ever got the full story so maybe I'll go looking for that today.


jsd said...

a beautiful post

Lee said...

Thanks JS! :-)