Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Worshiping With the Enemy?

If you’re a Kansas City-area Episcopalian, you may remember our local version of the Great Schism, when Christ Church in Overland Park left the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas and became an “Anglican” church (which it always had been anyway).  That was a terribly painful time for Christ Church members nine years ago – a time of division and loss, a time of focusing on differences among people who had been family for years.
Aug. 3 was my first Sunday of vacation.  On vacation Sundays, I always like to visit churches whose approaches to worship I don't usually get to experience.  From a more crass perspective, it’s also a chance to check out the competition.  So, in the pouring rain, I drove to 91st and Nall to worship in a church I’d never attended, neither in its Episcopal nor its “Anglican” manifestation – Christ Church. 
In several ways, it felt very much like St. Andrew’s on a Sunday morning.  About 200 people were gathered in a beautiful, traditionally designed nave.  In the pew racks in front of me were copies of the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer (1979), and the Hymnal 1982.  The crowd was a little younger than ours, but not tremendously.  The liturgy was Holy Eucharist, Rite II, using Eucharistic Prayer A.  The Collect of the Day and the Prayers of the People were straight from the BCP
In other ways, it felt more like St. Andrew’s on a Saturday night.  The feel of the liturgy was a lot like Take5, though a few steps further down the path of informal and accessible worship.  All the music was “contemporary” (whatever that means) praise songs, with the lyrics projected on two screens.  The lighting changed during the music to spotlight the performers.  The congregation trailed in as the small band played a few songs before the welcome and announcements.  The presiding minister wore street clothes, putting on a stole for the Eucharistic Prayer. 
Of course, there were some differences that we might not want to import into Take5 or Sunday morning:  a single scripture reading, a 30-minute sermon, and lots of references to substitutionary atonement (Jesus dying on the cross to make satisfaction to the Father for humanity’s offensive choice of sin).  And then there was the difference I enjoyed least:  Other than formal greetings when I walked into the building and at the Peace, no one engaged me.
But what struck me was the fact of our unity even in our choice for division.  If you'd plunked an Episcopalian down in that liturgy knowing none of the back story, he or she would have sworn it was an Episcopal service of Holy Eucharist.  I had no feeling of worshiping with the enemy.  It felt more like being with family members whose choices you don't understand, like a Union soldier watching his brother practicing Confederate military drills.  We’d been trained in the same traditions; we’d just chosen to focus on what divided us instead.  Civil war – family conflict – is always the hardest.
             So I gratefully received the bread and wine of Holy Eucharist at Christ Church Anglican on Sunday.  Was it Jesus’ body and blood?  Was the sacrament “efficacious”?  I’ll leave it to God to sort that out, but I have to say:  It certainly tasted familiar.  It tasted like unity.  As Jesus prayed for his followers, so he yearns for us:  “Holy Father, protect them … so that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11).

1 comment:

  1. Dear John,

    Thank you for visiting Christ Church and for writing about your experience in your blog post. Your references to the Civil War reminded me of the old film, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and his great line, "I guess we all died a little in that damn war." Indeed we did. Even still it feels a little bit like a soldier who survived but lost a limb. Anyway, I'm glad you visited and shared the sacrament with us. Perhaps the next time I'm on vacation I can visit St. Andrews.

    Let me also say "thank you" for sharing the fact that no one engaged you except at the formal greetings. While it is painful to hear it's something we need to hear. We certainly don't want to be a club that exists only for it's members. No, we must be the kinds of people who are eager to share Jesus' love and welcome to the "strangers" in our midst. So again, thank you for bringing this to our attention as it will help us more intentionally live out our calling as the people of God.

    Blessings to you and the community of St. Andrews.

    Patrick Wildman
    Sr. Pastor, Christ Church Anglican