“That we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Three weeks ago, as Lynn Ellen and I were traveling in England, we attended a choral Eucharist service at Christ Church College, whose chapel serves as the Cathedral of the Diocese of Oxford. We sat in the same chancel area with their choir of men and boys, who sang the Stravinsky Mass.
While we waited for the service to begin I was struck by the history exhibited in the stones around us. Some of them, massive columns in a simple 12th century Norman style, were part of the Priory of St. Frideswide. She was a Saxon Abbess of the 8th century, whose shrine was a major pilgrimage destination until the 16th century.
The Priory was taken over during Henry VIII’s reign and converted into the college. Additions to the church were in a more ornate Gothic style. Many of the ancient stone carvings had been defaced, either in Henry’s time, or in the later Puritan age.
Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Puritans had all used this space for worship. Despite their differing practices and often violently enacted changes in beliefs, there seemed to be a worshipful sense of place there that transcended historical and denominational differences.
The service also exhibited a wide breadth of faith experiences: a setting for a Roman Catholic Mass, composed by a Russian Orthodox believer, was sung for worship in an Anglican cathedral. Some of the liturgy was in Latin and some in a very contemporary idiom. Many of the other worshipers along with us that night were from different countries and spoke various languages. Some in attendance may not have been Christian, as they did not partake of Holy Communion.
This experience reminded me that the act of worship, in and of itself, is far more important than the particularities of how one church, one denomination, one part of the Christian family, or one part of the larger family of believers and seekers may define it.
As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “God is spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). How might we experience our worship as “spirit and truth” above all other considerations?
The Rev. Bill Queen