Monday, May 16, 2011

Pardon me while I beat my head on this wall...

As some of you may know, I have found my spiritual home in a highly liturgical, hierarchical church. It's a bit of an odd fit for an out-of-the-box, flat-leadership sort of person, but there are a number of reasons that this is "just right" for me - some of which I understand, some of which as yet remain mysteries to even me. I have grown to love the liturgy, to look forward to singing the Psalms, to anticipate standing for the Gospel reading... I'm being formed by the rhythm of this life, and for this I am truly grateful.

But then there was yesterday. For the second time in as many years, an unprecedented series of events left our congregation without a minister on a Sunday morning. And for a host of reasons, in this case none of which I understand, the entire service had to be changed. Rather than the Sunday morning liturgy, we substituted a service of Morning Prayers. The Gospel was read from the pulpit rather than in our midst, and we sat for its reading. Eucharist was out of the question.

I'll be the first one to acknowledge that Morning Prayers were beautiful. The range of Scriptures read was profound, and, this week in particular, meaningful to me. A service that centered around Psalm 23 was touching, comforting, and a challenge to bring my personal sorrow into God's presence. The music, abbreviated as it was, was beautifully done and deeply moving.

But I was hungry, so hungry, for God's presence in the Eucharist. My entire body screamed to stand and acknowledge the wonder of Christ among us. I ached to hear of God's incarnation, and God's suffering. But because the right person, with the right credentials and right standing, was unavailable to our congregation at that precise time, I was turned away still hungry. Compliance with a set of rules, and observance of a hierarchical set of values, swept aside the beautiful rituals that have drawn me to this community. The grief and hunger of this community had to be set aside for tradition and "Order;" "playing it by the book" held precedence.

This, I beg, is a far cry from the freedom we've been granted in Christ, from the call to each of us as Christians to serve as Priests, from the promise (read in unison during yesterday's service) that wherever two or more are gathered, Christ is there with us.


  1. I can't articulate a good reason why it has to be this way either, Lori. I missed the Eucharistic liturgy too. More and more in these past five years, the time from the Great Thanksgiving onward has been God's weekly prompting for me to put everything else from the week into proper perspective. I'd be hard pressed to find a better summary of what It's all about than those prayers we pray and things we do most Sunday mornings.

  2. Hey Lori,

    We should talk. I've wrestled with these kinds of issues a *lot* over the years, as a cradle Episcopalian who fell out of the cradle, then got back in, then fled in horror over an extreme case of this rules-over-love-and-freedom BS, then made his peace as a two-spiritual-home person who loves his Episcopal Church family but doesn't spend a whole lot of time and energy there any more, and spends most of his time, love, blood, sweat, and tears with a trans-denominational, out-of-the-box, flat-leadership emerging church with deep liturgical roots (as well as roots in other rich parts of the wider Church traditions).

    Anyway, if you feel like chatting, I'm more than happy to - ping me on email or FB if you want.

    And peace, peace. I feel where you're coming from, sister.

    - Mike

  3. Thank you both for your understanding. And your sympathy. Turns out this post caused a bit of a stir... you can follow some of the discussion on my fb page, where just a few folks with some skin in the game took the time to weigh in. I'm deeply grateful for the kindness with which this issue has been engaged... it was a painful, frustrating experience, and I'm thrilled to see the body of Christ up to the task of helping me process it!