I have taken to early morning walks in my favorite park about a mile from my apartment in Owings Mills. It is full of hiking trails, both paved and unpaved, and I love it. There is nothing like saying “good morning” to my fellow early risers—the honeysuckle with its delightful smell, a squirrel or two, the cicadas, an occasional frog, and of course, the birds. As I wind deeper into the park it gets even better; here is where the grass is still wet and there is just-kissed sunlight on the ground and at the tops of those magnificent trees. In this place, I am overwhelmed with the Presence of the divine mystery of LIFE. It is a holy place and a sacred space for me.
There is hardly anywhere that I do not experience the Divine Presence with me, but this is especially true when I come onto the grounds of The Church of the Redeemer. As a member of the staff, I am here often and like all workplaces, it can become easy for our church-home to become just another place to go to work instead of a place to come and be with GOD in a true and real way. Here we get to know GOD in the Silences as well as in our loving relationships together.
Now that our community is happily back in our lovely worship space, something seems extraordinarily special about the silences which punctuate our being together especially on Sunday mornings. As a child in the black Baptist church, I was always taught to pray upon immediately entering the church. It was usually a prayer of music offered by all of us to remind us of why we were gathered—to worship GOD. Wasn’t it St. Augustine who said, “those who sing pray twice?” Imagine my amazement when my first visit to an Episcopal church many moons ago demonstrated the same thing! I was confirmed three years later.
Now that we are back, I love the way we are all invited to “create sacred space” together in our Episcopal liturgy (the work of the people). I love the way we begin to experience GOD’s Presence through both silence and the music of the Voluntary and The Introit offered by our choir (just like in the Baptist church). Somehow, when I am listening, I am transported into a separate space and time suffused in GOD. I become so aware of how WE, the entire congregation, is caught up in Something very special and very holy. As we offer the Holy Eucharist together, I am filled with great JOY.
I realize that the return to our worship spaces will not necessarily mean a return to our former ways of being church. If there is anything the past 15 months have taught us, it is that change is truly inevitable; some things will be picked up and some things will be left behind. We may not come back the way we went out, but there are some things that we will return to. We return to a GOD whose faithful love for, within, and among us is changeless. We return to a true and real worship as we come together in the SILENCE and in our liturgy—our work of prayer and praise in all its flavors. We return to a respect and love for the GOD who creates, redeems, and sustains us in every breath and beat of our hearts. This Sunday, I invite you to listen…can you hear the ONE to whom you return?
With Love and in Joy,