This past Sunday was a great day in the life of our St. Martin’s family. I confess that, having encouraged everyone to come to the Evensong and Feast, we had expected low attendance at morning services. But what a delightful surprise to have many folks come both morning and evening, to worship and celebrate.
And what a celebration it was; exquisite music, delicious food, generous hospitality and joyful fellowship—one could not help but go into the night having been well and truly fed in every way. Thanks so much to everyone, ably shepherded by Mary Jane Pagan and Linda Pope, who worked so hard to plan and execute such an intricate and time-intensive event, to all who decorated, cooked, served, set up, cleaned up, collected coats, ushered, rehearsed, sang, played, read, typed, proofread and folded—so many people behind the scenes and in front—none of it could have been accomplished without each one of you. Merci, merci beaucoup!
Sunday’s celebration was the culmination of a busy weekend for a number of us, since Diocesan Convention took place on Friday evening and Saturday at St. Luke’s East Greenwich. This is the annual gathering of the people of the Diocese, particularly clergy and lay delegates, in order to conduct the business of the church. That’s the
reason for Convention. But it is also an important time for fellowship and worship with our sisters and brothers in Christ from different congregations throughout the Diocese—many of them people we see only once a year. So it is a time to reconnect with friends and colleagues, and to make new connections as well.
I was struck by a couple of things in particular this year. I discovered that Convention provided me with an opportunity for some really meaningful conversations besides the usual “How are things going at your church?” “Oh, fine, just the usual.” I observed people engaged in truly listening to one another, either one-on-one or in small groups, and was grateful that we had the time among the business of the day to be able to do that. Because where we are willing to be vulnerable to one another--where listening is present--healing can find an opening.
This is something I often observe at St. Martin’s, especially on Sunday after services. I see tiny clusters of people speaking quietly in the pews, totally present to each other, islands of holy listening as the business of the morning continues around them. To be able to be present for one another is a real gift; in a way it is a continuation of worship: “Where two or three are gathered in my name…”
Worship was a theme that was woven through the weekend. On Friday evening we had come together from all over the Diocese, all of us from a liturgical tradition that is centered on the Book of Common Prayer, yet expressed in worship styles, and even languages, that vary from congregation to congregation. At Friday evening’s Eucharist we worshiped in English and Spanish, with an American Sign Language interpreter. It was good to pray the familiar words of the liturgy, yet to be reminded of the breadth of the Episcopal household within an even more diverse Christian community.
The Bishop’s annual address to the Convention emphasized the importance of worship for us in a troubled and divided world. Bishop Knisely reminded us, especially clergy, of something we tend to forget if we’re not careful-- if we let ourselves get distracted from what we are really doing when we gather as the people of God to pray and celebrate Eucharist together. He showed us a slide with the warning, “Fasten seat belts” as he referred to a quote from Annie Dillard:
"It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping God may wake someday and take offense, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return."
Friends, this is to say, lest we forget, that worship is
To pray together, to come to the rail and kneel side by side with one another, young and old, red and blue, gay and straight, high church and low, each saying “amen” as the wafer is given to them, each holding the presence of Jesus in their open hands; that is powerful. It is the power of the Gospel to bring people together as the family of God. It is the beginning of listening to one another and of listening for God’s call to transformation and renewal.
As the Bishop says, worship is what we’re good at. We just need to remember how powerful it can be, and let it work within us, between us, and in the world around us.
I look forward to seeing you this Sunday, for more worship, listening, and fellowship.