Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Church Rocket Science

Sunday was “Blast-Off Sunday” at St. Andrew’s –- the beginning of Sunday school, which the kids marked by going outside and firing little foam-rubber rockets into the air. This is always an important day, but it was something to celebrate this year because of the way Sunday school is changing for us.

For many years, we offered Sunday school during the first part of the 10:15 (“family”) service. Not anymore. Now Sunday school is happening between the two services, starting at 9:15 a.m. And the reason why is a great reminder of who we are as Episcopalians.

We made this change so our kids could experience worship regularly. As Episcopalians, liturgy using the Book of Common Prayer is a huge part of our identity. Other denominations may focus on reading the Bible, or channeling the activity of the Holy Spirit, or hearing long sermons, or singing praise music, or whatever. For us, the focus is liturgy – worshipping God through common prayer, as Anglicans have been doing for centuries. When we had Sunday school during the first part of the liturgy, it taught an unintentional but still unhealthy lesson: “Worship is for older people, not for kids.” In the moment on any given Sunday, I can imagine both kids and parents being happier with that arrangement (I certainly remember being dragged to church when I didn’t want to be there.) But the problem is, the kids eventually grow up without any place for worship in their heads or in their hearts. So, we discerned that we should be forming our kids to know and to love worship, rather than teaching them that worship is something older people do.

So, to make that a reality, we’re now giving kids their own worship time every Sunday. After Sunday school, they gather for Children’s Chapel, complete with Bible readings, and a kids’ sermon, and fun music, and their own prayers, and a little altar, and candles, and everything. Then they join their parents in the church before Communion, so families can receive the presence of Christ together.

Most churches have been doing this kind of thing for years, so we’re not exactly pushing the envelope here. But for St. Andrew’s to catch this wave (again) is a grand thing. And so, after the kids shot off their rockets in the churchyard, the clergy shot of rockets, too – in the church, during the announcements. The fact that Episcopal kids need to worship may not be ecclesiological rocket science, but it is a change to celebrate.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Moments of transfiguration

August 7, 2010

I’m sorry for the long absence. I hope and pray to make the space consistently for this again. That’s certainly something easier hoped and prayed for than done, but I’ll give it my best.

Ann and I have been at a lake for the past couple of days, celebrating her birthday and our anniversary. One of the best things about that experience has been sitting on a screened porch overlooking a cove of the lake, shielded by the trees. It’s been a lovely opportunity simply to sit, without checking e-mail, and listen -– to the birds, to the breeze, to God. And every now and then, when one does such a countercultural thing, one is blessed with visions.

This morning, I was sitting there alone before Ann woke up, praying. At other moments in the past few days, depending on the sun and the wind, the water has appeared still and dark and flat, a quiet companion but, frankly, of little interest. This morning, everything changed. A breeze came up, moving the water in a gentle current; the sun was at just the right angle from my eyes. And the result was transfiguration. The water flashed and shimmered as if electrified, glittering with divine energy. It was the same cove, of course -– but it wasn’t.

Yesterday was the feast of the Transfiguration, which recalls Jesus’ appearance with Moses and Elijah on the mountaintop. The disciples with him reported that, for a brief moment, everything about him changed –- that he shone in dazzling light, revealing the fullness of divinity they had only glimpsed in words and signs before.

At least part of the message of that revelation is that God continues to share with us flashes of divinity. What usually looks to us still and flat and mundane can become transfigured before our eyes, even now. Take God’s good creation, and add incarnation, and mix it with the breath of the Holy Spirit, and you never know what you might be blessed to see -– or who you might be blessed to become.