Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Peace To You

Though we're strangers, still I love you = I love you more than your mask
And you know you have to trust this to be true = And I know that's much to ask
But lay down your fears = Come and join this feast
He has called us here, you and me

I love my church. For many reasons, one of which is the sense of community that I find there. We celebrate together every week. We receive the word of the Lord, we confess sin, we pray for healing, we acknowledge the creeds, and we come forward together, one by one, to receive the body and blood, the wine and the bread. Each week the priest says to us with joy "The Peace of Christ be with you!" and we respond "And also with you!" Then we turn to everyone we can reach and pass the peace. The peace of the Lord be with you...

I don't know everyone personally. But at each membership or baptism service, when young and old alike are brought into the family, the church is asked to make a vow to uphold and support these new members or newly baptized in their faith. To me, this is an enormously weighty vow, and frequently I am too terrified to reply. A commitment to community: I may not know you, but I vow before God to help you in your faith, in anyway I can.

But sometimes I timidly add my voice to the others: I will...with God's help.

Though I love you, still we're strangers = Prisoners in these lonely hearts
Though our blindness separates us = Still a Light shines in the dark
And His outstretched arms = Are still strong enough to reach
Behind these prison bars, to set us free

Another way I find community in my church is through my small group. Not so small actually --counting children and babies we're nearly 20 strong. Some of these people are my best friends; others I am just beginning to know and trust. But it doesn't matter. We have committed to be a community together, a community that celebrates and mourns together, that encourages and confronts when necessary. We have laughed till we cried, and we have cried till there were no tears left. We pray together, read to each other from the Bible and Prayer Book, and commit to seek what is good for each member and their families. It can be scary to be so close to people, to make the conscious decision to know and be known. But Christ is in our midst. And we are finding healing in his presence.

So may peace reign down from heaven = Like little pieces of the sky
Little keepers of the promise = Fallen on these souls this drought has dried
In His blood and His body = In this bread and in this wine
Peace to you...Peace of Christ to you

Another thing I love about my church is the liturgy. The only formal liturgy I knew growing up was Rich Mullin's album "A liturgy, a legacy, and a Ragamuffin band." I didn't even know what I was listening to, but I loved it; and I recognized it immediately when I first stepped into my Anglican church, years later. Now, I can't imagine life without it. Every week, every season, every year we are joining in the same celebration with others around the world and throughout hundreds of years past -- a community that transcends both century and country.

I watch the priest celebrate the Eucharist, and hear the words of Jesus "do this in remembrance of me" as he stands before the cross, arms outstretched, the bread broken in his hands. I watch as others come to serve us, as we walk forward one by one, children, teenagers, students, grown-ups, grandparents, family, together. The priest looks me in the eyes as he places the bread in my outstretched hands saying "Catherine, this is the body of Christ"

As a friend of mine likes to say...
Peace of Christ to y'all.


*Song lyrics from "Peace: A Communion Hymn -- by Rich Mullins


sam said...

what an amazing layout. hehe.. hi cath! see, i made a comment, albeit useless!

i kinda miss cogs... the liturgy and singing, etc.

Anonymous said...

Giff and I used that Rich song during our wedding communion ceremony. We, too, knew little of the liturgy other than that album until we found Great Shepherd. And even though we live far away know, we still feel a profound sense of community every time we come back and join that body, old friends and new faces, around Christ's table.

Have you read "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places"? Eugene Peterson has some great things to say about the Eucharist and the sharing of meals in general as a sacramental expression of community.

I think there is no more powerful experience. We miss ya'll!


Heather Maynard said...

We love you and Matthew & love having you as part of small group. We are so glad to have you as our sister and brother.

Ash's comment about Peterson's view on sacremental expression reminds me of Life Together by Bonhoeffer. This book about community pretty much culminates with a description (and exhortation) of the Eucharist as the ulimate communal act of the body of Christ. Sorry, I can't recall if you've read it. Chances are you have! :-)


Catherine said...

Actually...I don't think I've read EITHER book! I'll put them on my list. Thanks Ash and Heather!

Anonymous said...

Catherine, I really appreciate your thoughts on church community. You’ve truly given me a new perspective. I realize that community has been a much deeper, harder achieved thing than you relate. I guess I just hadn’t thought I really “knew” someone until we’d had that deep one-on-one conversation. You’re really right that just singing praise together and reciting the Apostle’s Creed are intimate and rare experiences.

Really, thank you for your perspective! I can appreciate what I already have more now.

Lauren (posting her first blog ever)

maththew said...

thats a good one.

Anonymous said...

Your are Nice. And so is your site! Maybe you need some more pictures. Will return in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm really commenting on a very (very) old post. I was just blogging about something related and it made me want to reread some of your early posts because I remembered you capturing things so well... Although I also remember reading them and wishing I had been able to stay and be a part of it for far longer than I had been, as you & M, and F/M and M/C were.