18 February 2002

A people's public act

18 February 2002

I have not been present for much of the public life of the people of St. George’s over the last few years.  I was recently reminded of one of the traditions of the Anglican Church that resonates with me:  our tradition of public worship and, within that worship, public affirmation and support of the life-changing vows that each of us make, to one degree or another, within the structure of the church.

I was reminded of this when I went to a friend’s wedding reception.  The wedding itself had been a small private affair while the reception was thrown open to the larger world.  When I arrived at the reception, I felt like I’d come in in the middle of things.  I felt off balance for most of the time I was there– until the very end when I volunteered to help with the clean-up and break-down of the room.  Once I had taken an active part in the reception, then, it felt like a wedding.  At that point I regained my balance.

Now that I have had some time to reflect, I realize that what I missed was participating in the service itself.  As an Anglican, I am accustomed to being asked if I will support the newly baptized, or the newly married, or the newly confirmed in their new relationship with the church and with each other.  I had not realized how powerful and important that public witness and support was to my own understanding of what it means to be ‘churched.’  

I took this opportunity for reflection to reread part of “A People Called Episcopalians” by the Rev. Dr. John H. Westerhoff, and I found this quote:  “For Anglicans, therefore, the answer to the question: ‘What is it to be an Anglican Christian?’ is, ‘Come, worship and minister with us.’”

In addition to being the People of the Book, Episcopalians are a people of public worship and public support.  Any person can walk in our door, pick up the book and follow along.  This is part of the tie that binds me to the Episcopal Church– everything that is important to the church is written down for all to see.  But like a script, it only really comes alive when many voices read the words.   We may all have small voices but when we say the words together we weave a rope of sound from our promises.  

Easter is coming, the time to renew our own baptismal vows and renew our support for one another as sisters and brothers in Christ, people of the book, and holders of the safety net.  I plan to make it to Church for the Great Vigil and reaffirm, publicly, my promises to God and to God’s family, the Church.

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