Dear People of Saint Peter’s,
One of the things that most of us enjoy about Saint Peter’s is the closeness and warmth of our community. You can see it in the way we greet each other, the way we reach out to each other when we are going through difficulty, and the way we enjoy playing and working together at events like the Annual Parish Picnic and the Art Show. I’d like to think it has always been this way; from our days as a colony on the edge of the world until today as more and more newcomers still come into our region. We are by no means perfect, but we are a caring community in the Body of Christ. It is one of the things I love about serving as your priest and Rector.
In the third chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes, we read that there is a time for everything and those of us who remember the music of the Byrds know that this can make a very catchy tune! Either way, it reminds us that there is an appropriate time for everything. It is also true that our greatest gifts can also be a challenge. These two ideas can come together in our worship.
The Greek word for liturgy is leitourgía and its original meaning is work or ministry of the people. What this means is that our service or worship is not intended to be passive but an active activity! All of us have an active part, singing, praying, reading, and moving together. Each of us offers ourselves in service as part of the Great Thanksgiving, perhaps most eloquently rendered in Eucharistic Prayer I, Rite I in The Book of Common Prayer (1979):
And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee that we, and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him.
Our worship does not just happen either; it takes a great deal of intention and planning. Putting together the bulletins, practicing the readings, writing the sermons, practicing on various instruments and singing, all require time and energy. We strive to do our best, giving the very best we can back to God. Being a community of faith requires us to maintain balance and as Episcopalians we have a natural pull towards moderation. Sometimes, we need to bring into conscious awareness where we are and rebalance the equation and we are at one of those times now.
As I said, I love and revel in our community. I enjoy sharing and laughing with you before and after the service and I always look forward to seeing and talking with you. Yet, we are not all in the same place when we come into Sanctuary. Some of us are craving quiet and peace for prayer, some are preparing to give of themselves in leading the worship in word and song, and some of us are looking forward to reconnecting—they are all equally wonderful and good. We need to be mindful of each other and balance all these needs.
One of the few complaints I ever hear is also the one I most frequently hear: “it is hard to pray before the service because there is too much going on” and also, “it is hard to listen to the closing musical meditation (postlude).” As a community, we need to find a balance and appreciate each other’s different needs.
So, I’d like to ask you to help me reset the balance. By all means, warmly welcome and greet each other, but when we are in the Sanctuary of the Church and after the announcements have been made at the beginning of the liturgy, try to be quiet during the musical prelude. Enter into a prayerful mode, praying for those things that are upon your heart and for those who are around you. Try to hold onto the moment and not to disturb others by talking. In the same way after the service, if you do not wish to stay for the postlude, try to exit quietly and go outside to greet your friends. We can all laugh and reconnect at coffee hour!
Saint Paul wrote this in his letter to the Church in Philippi:
If then our common life in Christ yields anything to stir the heart, any consolation of love, any participation in the Spirit, any warmth of affection or compassion, fill up my cup of happiness by thinking and feeling alike, with the same love for one another and a common attitude of mind. Leave no room for selfish ambition and vanity, but humbly reckon others better than yourselves. Look to each other’s interests and not merely to your own.
May we all strive to live into these words as we care for each other and give ourselves in service to Christ.
Please keep me in your prayers and know that you are always with me.