The first Sunday of St George’s worshiping in the Parish Hall looked nothing like a Communion service you might expect in a 19th century Anglican parish in one of the historically most Anglo-Catholic dioceses in North America. But, find that was kind of the point.
The Parish Hall was set up very simply: rectangular tables creating a large isosceles trapezoid, with chairs on the outside. In the middle, a small circular table, covered with a white tablecloth. There were no Prayer Books, vestments, candles, or even bulletins. There was barely even an outline of a service. And worst of all, we started with a game. Name tags were printed with the names of Bible characters, and put randomly on people’s backs. People had to go to one another, asking yes/no questions, to find out which Scriptural personage was on their back.
Why was the Canon Liturgist of the Diocese of Quincy launching a Sunday morning Eucharistic liturgy with a game? Because our congregation desperately needs to learn, nay, achieve, community. Because community is a Gospel imperative, and sometimes a Gospel imperative requires us to do things a little differently than they’ve been done. I could preach every Sunday for a year that we need greater community, but in this setting, we can experience, we can feel, our lack of real community. And nothing brings about community quite like shared experiences, especially the unusual kind. Like playing games on Sunday morning.
When the game concluded, I taught on New Testament community, primarily from Acts 2 and 1 John 1. We then moved to the Prayers of Penitence. I read from Psalm 51, inviting people to make David’s words their own. For a declaration of forgiveness I read 1 John 1.9, letting Scripture assure the hearers that God will indeed forgive when we confess our sins. After another prayer, we launched into the Scriptures.
Following the reading of lectionary passages from the Old Testament and the Gospel was a video: the first session of Discipleship Explored, an exploration of discipleship in the Book of Philippians. Using the video here allowed me to focus my week’s preparation on the community experiential emphasis, yet continuing to have expositional teaching from the Scriptures.
For the Prayers of Intercession, we followed the five-fold pattern in Common Worship: 1) The Church of Christ; 2) Creation, Human Society, and Those in Authority; 3) The Local Community; 4) Those Who Suffer; 5) The Communion of Saints. Rather than have one person reading the prayers, I would say, “I invite your prayers for the Church of Christ,” etc.
Communion was the simplest part of all, following the typical Take, Bless, Break, Distribute outline. My wife baked unleavened bread, which I put on a plate. We used our regular Communion wine in a normal wine glass. I offered words of thanks, read the Words of Institution from the Gospel of Matthew, we said the Lord’s Prayer, and then I distributed the elements. I then prayed a brief prayer of thanks. We ended with an assignment: be reminded of this fellowship of believers. Every day, pray for someone in this room.
Next post, I’ll share more about the first four weeks and our community-building emphasis.