Rector's Ramblings October 25, 2017
I am so pleased that X Church has started back up. We take the summers off (with a little extra on each end) because of temperature and light. The candle-lit atmosphere, or lack there of, when the sun stays up later, has a negative impact on the ambience of the service. Similarly, running the air conditioning prevents us from using real candles in the candelabras or using incense; neither works well with our industrial strength blowers. So, now that it has cooled off and is darker in the evenings, the service is back in full swing.
Because of the slower pace, the intentional silences, and the whole ethos of X Church, I find it to be the service I can most readily worship in as a presider. That may not make sense to some, but those of us who preside in worship often find it hard to participate fully in the worship itself for a host of reasons. Leading and participating are two different spiritual acts, and the latter is vitally important for a healthy spiritual life. As such, I find that participating in X Church feeds my soul more consistently than Sunday mornings – which can also feed my soul, but not as easily or as well, on average.
Now in our fourth year of X Church, I still have trouble describing the service to people who have never come. While it’s unique; it’s a one-of-a-kind service in all the Episcopal Church, let alone our local community; it shares elements with a movement in Christianity to return to certain spiritual practices and modes of worship. It borrows from what some communities call a Celtic flavor, and it also borrows from the Taize movement in France. The opening music each week is always from the Taize community, and we use other pieces on a regular basis as well.
The pacing has a lot to do with it, too. Sunday mornings aren’t exactly rushed, and yet, we don’t allow for a lot of downtime in our liturgies. People are often eager to get in and get out, which affects the quality of worship that “runs long,” and we have a tight schedule to keep with three services and Sunday School. With X Church, we simply take our time and allow for the Spirit to move in the spaces and the silences that we put in place. Silence has been making a comeback in Anglican worship in the last 50 years, although it’s still not used as often as the Prayer Book recommends. If you’re ever really bored during a sermon, I challenge you to start counting how many times the 1979 book “allows” for silence and how many times it “demands” silence. Once you get that number, compare it to the previous prayer book, which only has one total between the two categories.
I also find that the historic structure of the X Church liturgy, combined with a more expansive language, helps me enter into the prayers in a deeper way. This is not new age-y liturgy. We use the “old school” format that begins with the penitential order, confessing our sins right up front. We also follow the ancient pattern of readings, homily, creed, prayers, and peace. The Eucharist includes a prayer of humble access, an updated version of what we know from Rite I and the 1928 BCP. And yet somehow the familiar rhythms and words combine with new ones, blended in amongst the silence and the incense and the music to create something that can be deeply moving and restorative at the same time.
I am also flattered that as a result of Kathleen Turner’s efforts to connect with the planners for the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in Austin, TX next year, our X Choir has been invited to lead the music for the Convention’s evening prayer service not long after the Convention opens. We made some recordings of what we can do and sent them in last spring, and they liked what they heard. The music was presented as a component of what we do in worship at X Church and the worship planning team was intrigued and interested. It’s an honor, and quite humbling, to say the least, and yet I’m also fiercely proud of our little service and those in our parish and staff who pull it off. I see this as a real moment to offer a gift back to the wider Church, sharing the pearl that we have discovered with others.
You’ll hear more about the General Convention opportunity in the coming months. We’ll be doing some fundraising, including hosting a concert, to raise funds for the team to travel to Austin. While I’ll be there again as an alternate Deputy for the Diocese of GA, we have to get the rest of the X Choir there. We think we can find housing, but airfare and meals are the minimum we have to cover. As we offer this gift to the wider church, we welcome any support our congregation wishes to give.
I realize X Church isn’t for everyone, nor is it something that must be experienced every week to appreciate. It is something unique and special, and I hope the curious will try it out when the opportunity presents itself. Maybe that will be for All Saints next week, or maybe another week. If it piques your interest, though, I commend it to you again. I’ll be there every week except when I’m out of town. It’s not just a gift to others, but a gift to myself – one I’m overjoyed to share.
Father of all, we give you thanks and praise, that when we were still far off you met us in your Son and brought us home. Dying and living, he declared your love, gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory. May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life; we who drink his cup bring life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world. Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us, so we and all your children shall be free, and the whole earth live to praise your name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Post Communion Prayer from X Church