Trying On New Things in Our Community
St. Anne’s is a remarkably flexible and confident community, and the agility with which we embrace newness and difference is a hallmark of who we are. If you’ve had a chance to join us the past couple weeks, you’ve had a taste of the new liturgy we’ve been using. It has been a positive experience, providing more opportunity for the whole congregation to bring their stories to the conversation, and space to try on spiritual practices. There is new energy in the national church to expand our horizons of what church can be. It’s exciting to be on the forefront of that courageous step into the ever-evolving future of the community that follows the teachings of Jesus, who himself was an agent of healing change.
It is also a little challenging trying new things because we’re so used to what has been the norm for so long. This is a similar feeling many people had when the Episcopal Church rolled out the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. There were protests to keep using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. At the rollout of the 79 Prayer Book, many clergy gave no information around the change and simply said, “This is what we’re doing, so get on board whether you like it or not.” Some parishes were so against it, that the priest had to remove the 1928 Prayer Books and hide them so that the congregation would have to use the new Book!
As funny as that may sound, I can understand this resistance. Change is hard, especially when change comes into places of deep comfort, like church. The constant ebb and flow of culture means there’s not a lot that stays settled in our lives, and our spiritual homes are places where we seek comfort and refuge.
What if we were able to reimagine how to find that comfort while allowing for the creative breath of the Holy Spirit to challenge us to open our hearts and minds to “new” things? That’s where good conversation, education, and trust are necessary. My hope and my invitation is that we get excited about finding the common threads that exist in the Rites we use on Sundays, and how they tie into building our relationships with God and each other. Instead of seeing the written rites as the end-all/be-all, let us look more closely at what the words teach us. How do we explore not only the beauty of the words in our common prayers, but also the stories they tell us (the theology of the prayers), and the bones that make the skeleton of the body (the structures we inherit from the beginning of the Jesus Movement)?
As we step into a world where Christendom is no longer the norm–which I think is a gift!–we are given the challenging opportunity to look closely at the core of who we are, and find ways to translate that identity into the lived language of our context. That is what good liturgy does. And a community that consistently explores that question is a community that is fully engaged in their growth as a spiritual community. That is built into our identity as Episcopalians, and is lived into at St. Anne’s in Fremont. I look forward to seeing where this journey takes us!
Blessings to you,