Pastor Greenbean has been away for the past week. He spent the last week in an undisclosed location—deep in the heart of Texas—to work on a forthcoming book. (SPOILER ALERT: It is awesome). Even though I was gone, I still went to church. I have found that worshiping in other faith communities and other traditions beside my own are helpful to me, so when I am away that is what I do.
The church I went to was a relatively small Episcopal Church. Before I had ever gotten into the door a kind man told me, “Good morning” and then after entering the door no fewer than three people told me, “Good morning,” or “Welcome.” It was both nice but also a little startling.
The over-welcoming motif continued as immediately after that a person, who I am sure is well-meaning, insisted that I sign the guest registry. I really do not like signing guest registries. Ever. Yet this man positioned himself between me, the registry and several other people standing around talking in such a way that I had no escape. So I signed the book, thinking it was large enough to serve as the Lamb’s Book of Life. I know they were trying to be nice; but they were trying just a little too hard.
I found my seat in the worship center. The service began right on time with the opening anthem and then proceeded through the usual pageantry of an Episcopal service. Episcopal worship is so dignified and proper it automatically makes you sit up. After some praying and kneeling the priest gave his homily which was interesting, but brief and in no way tied to Gospel reading he used a launching point it. But everything he said was true, so that is good.
Following the sermon there was a collection which amazed me because it seemed like everyone was putting money in. Episcopalians must be faithful stewards. The hard part of their collection was that they had a special offering they were ingathering today and they collected it at the same time as the regular giving, but they used a separate basket for that. The effect was one had to negotiate the two baskets and apparently figure out which one to put your check(s) into. That is way too many logarithms for me.
My favorite part was the Communion time. Those who know me are aware that for me, the Lord’s Supper is one of the endearing and intensely meaningful parts of personal worship and consecration. During that time at the altar, kneeling, several thoughts and emotions came over me. First, I thought how different it was to be on the receiving end of worship ministry. It is a humbling and unique place for me. Second, I missed my church family back home. Next week we are scheduled to have communion together and I was thinking of them. But also, I was stirred in my spirit that through Christ Jesus, these Episcopalians who in many ways have different emphasis and doctrines than I affirm are still my brothers and sisters. We are one. When the acolyte bent over to give me the drink from the common cup, these were all swirling around inside my soul. She must have seen it on my face because she smiled at me. I think I needed that.