Today Adri, a new friend from Kansas City Marisa, and I went with a lady from the Boiler Room, Steph Heald, to a Ladies Quiet Day in north London. Steph was the speaker for the day and we went along to set up a prayer room and to help run some prayer activities. The day, according to my understanding, was run by two sister churches. One Anglican, and the other Catholic. (I think.) We had a wonderful time, and it seemed like the ladies who came did too.
I grew up in churches that wouldn't really be considered traditional. First in Assemblies of God and then interdenominational churches that would probably be labeled Charismatic. I'm not really familiar with liturgy or standing in line to receive communion or anything associated with "high church." Not being familiar with these things, naturally, I've always found them very intriguing. (This is something else I've remembered over the last few weeks.)
We closed the day with a Eucharist service. It was beautiful. There I was, standing in a row with my hands clasped plaintively to receive the bread. I found tears filling my eyes hearing the words, "Jesus' body given for you." Just listen to this:
"Take and eat, for the peace of all nations. Take and drink, for the love of all people. For you have shown us the path that leads to life. And this feast will fill us with joy."
"Almighty God, we thank you for feeding us with the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ. Through Him we offer you our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice. Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory. Amen."
"The feast is ended: depart in peace. The work of the world lies before us. Accomplish justice, with grace. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen.
(The bold parts were what we all said together.)
It was absolutely beautiful. I really feel like we have so much to learn from those we so easily pass off as being no longer relevant or valid. These are the people who are carrying on the tradition of centuries of praise to God. We're so quick to see where things have gone wrong. Somehow, there must be a way to balance out the warnings of history with its examples.
I was thinking a lot about this at the 24-7 Euro Gathering. These are a few scriptures that came to mind:
"Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you." -Ephesians 6:2&3
"GOD's Message yet again: 'Go stand at the crossroads and look around. Ask for directions to the old road, the tried-and-true road. Then take it. Discover the right route for your souls.'" -Jeremiah 6:16
"No one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, 'The old is good.'" - Luke 5:39
Something that has become very important to me is the idea that, as a new generation, as members of what would be called "fresh expressions of church," we cannot forget to honor the fathers. To honor those who have gone before us, paving the way for us to walk in. The only reason we are able to go as far and as high as we are is that we have the trails they blazed to walk on, their shoulders to stand on. We must remember this.
One of the sessions at the Gathering was on Ezekial 37 and the valley of dry bones that became an army. Something that was said really stuck with me: "We have to remember that when we see something dead, it means that there was life there at one time." I'm beginning to feel like a big part of my calling may be looking for the life that still remains in places others have passed off as being dead. Like Miracle Max in The Princess Bride, "Mostly dead is slightly alive." God can use slightly alive. After all, he is the Great Miracle Worker, the Breath of Life.
The picture at the top is of a church in Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland. It's a stone church that dates from the 12th century, although there were other wooden churches on the site centuries before that. I have never felt God's presence any stronger than I did the afternoon I spent praying in that roof-less, almost wall-less church.
I know I've gone on quite a while here. I usually try to avoid writing really long posts. But I hope you don't mind if I leave off by quoting a bit more of the liturgy from this afternoon.
Flame - dancing Spirit, come
Sweep us off our feet and
Dance us through our days.
Surprise us with your rhythms;
Dare us to try new steps, explore
New patterns and new partnerships;
Release us from old routines
To swing in abandoned joy and
Fearful adventure. And
In the intervals,
In your still centre.