Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Gathering of Worship.

For the first Sunday of Advent, Sarah, Kyla, and I attended a service at The Church of the Holy Spirit on the campus of Kenyon College. The order of service was conducted as a drama described by the metaphor of "act" and "scene." It was a beautiful display to engage heart, mind, and body in the whole narrative of God with his people.
It has been some time since I have heard the amount of Scripture read during a religious service as was read today. I felt deeply and thoughtfully engaged even when providing intermittent attention and care for Kyla. Have other gatherings lost the appreciation and use of the holy Scripture?
During the recessional, a small child walked/climbed/crawled up in the front of the nave and into the arms of the rector. She held him in her arms with a smile as the music continued to finalize the service. Immediately following the service refreshments were served in the center of the cruciform nave. Again, children were everywhere. Ultimately the ended up crawling under the alter and the pulpit, two liturgical elements highly regarded for their symbolism. There is great beauty in the presence and activity of the children. They are allowed to be children and they are allowed to engage in worship. They are not frowned upon. They are accepted. They are loved. The community of Harcourt Parish is a wonderful place of intergenerational community. While there are children everywhere, there are those in their 20s, 30s, and on into 80s or 90s. Many worship gatherings that I have attended recenctly have been constrained to college students with 30-40 year old pastors. Have those gatherings lost the value of interacting with multiple generations and accepting all that each generation has to offer in service? The older their wisdom and experience? The younger their energy and untaintedness?
Many Catholic churches deny the service of the Eucharist to those who are not "catholic." Statements were clear in this Episcopal gathering that all who have been baptized are welcome to receive the elements of the bread and wine. Sarah and I (carrying Kyla) went forward to be offered the body and blood of Christ. As we knelt and prayed and partook of the bread and wine, the rector placed her hand on Kyla's head and gave her a blessing of grace and mercy and a filling with the presence of God. In addition to the blessing, during the time of Peace, as congregants specifically approached Sarah and I, they looked at Kyla and smiled and offered her peace as well.
It was beautiful.
I am extremely thankful for our experience today.


Anonymous said...

wow, thank you for letting me be apart of that.


ronwright said...

Dude...I can't believe we missed you on the one Sunday we missed(plus I heard it was a great service...but I have found all the services there over the past few months unbelievable)! Hopefully, we will see you there again...we have felt incredibly welcomed by the congregation. Like you, I have been most struck by how open these folks are to the "messiness" of community (children running around, awkward moments at the communion altar, etc.), which is really what community is...messy, spontaneous moments where we get to incarnate the love of God...thanks be to God!

Sarah said...

As a mom to three little ones, this sounds soooooo wonderful...I'd love for my children to be able to experience church services WITH Ryan and I more often. If I have one issue with most churches is that children can attend as long as they act like mini-adults (which they are clearly NOT). They quickly learn to loathe and dread going to church because it means they can't interact or even make a peep. There is so little tolerance (love) for children and such rigid expectations for their behavior.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Oh...and the church is open just about any time. The kids and I always stroll through on our frequent walks around the Kenyon campus.

Lee Y said...


I am convinced that you have missed your calling and should consider working with churches as a marketing consultant. I read this post and thought, "man, I want to go there too." Perhaps you romanticized the experience and may have glossed over a few things...maybe not. Either way, it makes me want to jump out of my pew and run up to the cool stone church on the hill.

denise said...

Travis did not "gloss over or romanticize" any detail. I am grateful for the loving inclusion and acceptance of children in the services.

It made my heart glad to see your family Sunday. I am thankful for Harcourt Parish church. We have been graciously welcomed. I have a sense of coming home, and the continuity of Christian worship as it has been for centuries.

Matthew 5:38-48, NASB

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone want to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only you brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."