Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's the work of the people: Sunday Nights

I'm sitting here watching Torchwood before I work on a Church Music paper and my final Tutorial Seminary Paper. And Right now they're reading Daniel 12.10 (title of the Episodes is "End of Days"). How appropriate for Advent. This is the first in a three part series that I've promised my senior warden for over a month now, and it was spurred by conversations with Taylor Burton-Edwards and Fr. Malloy. The conversations were about services that I like here at the General Seminary (and those I don't like to some extent), and then we talked about Sunday night, and TBE put it succinctly when I described the service: it's the work of the people.

Sunday night is the family/community Eucharist, and it has some quirks, and I fell in love with it last February when I visited the seminary. It starts with either the opening acclamation or a hymn. Sometimes the processional hymn is the hymn of praise, and sometimes we sing or say the Trisagion or the Kyrie after the opening acclamation. A priest from the community (and believe me, we have plenty) is always the presider, but students are usually the preachers. This is the opportunity for students to preach in the chapel in a service before their senior sermon. This is the most child-friendly of the services.

Children carry the cross and the gospel book, they are usually the oblation bearers. Lately we've had kids that can read reading the first lesson (we only do two) and the prayers of the people. Most of the time the sermon starts with an invitation for all the children regardless of age to join the preacher on the chancel steps. The music is provided by students with musical ability. We've had guitar players, organists, and a vocalist who accompanied herself with a tambourine. And they're all awesome.

Sunday nights is a time when the GTS community comes together (in varied sizes) and brings its gifts to glorify God and enjoy God's goodness in the Eucharist. And we don't tidy up living in community: children scream, they crawl around the chapel (one especially enjoys the altar rail on the dean's side as a destination), they kick the pew wracks in front of them, they babel. Sometimes they cry or meltdown and need to be held. They try too hard to hold infants and toddlers. But they have a part to play and in all their noise and messiness they glorify God and at least remind me (as if I could ever forget!) that honestly living in community is messy because we're broken, messy humans.

And adults I think have a lot to bring and learn. Students preaching often ask questions as part of their sermon, which my elementary school principal mother will tell you may not always be wise; you never know what the answer might be. They have a role to play not just in worshiping, but in formation. There are children who stand with me and the presider (and somtimes others) in the orans. They look on the in the prayer book that I take up with as they learn the memorial acclamations. They are learning now about acolyting, helping the presider set the table, taking directions from sacristans and altar guilds.

And it's not a show. And it's not cold or detached. It's worship. It's the work of the people, and I'm headed there now.

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