a resource for this time of COVID-19 social distancing
By the Rev. Bruce W. Gray
In this week’s experience of Holy Family’s Lenten Challenge, the focus is on corporate prayer, that is worshiping together. Since the earliest days of God’s self revealing, as recorded in the Scriptures, there is a presumption that people’s spiritual lives are integrated into their public lives, rather than something hidden away. By the time of Jesus, common worship is a cornerstone of Jewish worship, and the format from synagogue worship at the time of Jesus continues to be the focus of Christian worship in the liturgical Christian traditions of today, such as the Episcopal Church.
The reasons and benefits of corporate worship have fascinated faithful people for so long that millions of works in virtually every written language on earth focus on the topic. So I will today just focus on a handful knowing that so much more could be said.
Corporate worship is the primary tool for Christians to support one another in their walks with God. Even if nothing personal is spoken, together praying, singing, receiving Communion, pondering the Bible, and so much more helps people get through their weeks and the many challenges life brings. Knowing we are not alone is a key human need and spiritual truth.
Being in church together helps put a face on God’s love for everyone. Many Sundays, a child’s smile or the hope filled face of an elder inspire all around them that God is real and full of love.
Coming to church each Sunday encourages people new to Christianity in their walks with God. Many times newcomers will ask where a person they met the week before is, since that was someone with whom a connection was made. If the newcomer cannot find that person, discouragement is common and the importance of Sunday worship undermined.
No matter how loudly we sing in the shower, there is something powerful about singing a beloved hymn, or reciting the Lord’s Prayer, that just is not accessible when we are alone. And that something is the Holy Spirit moving through the congregation. Sometimes the people gathered provide the energy needed to overcome despair or brokenness within an individual.
Receiving Holy Communion gives everyone an intimate experience of God that is not possible when we worship alone. God is really present in the bread and the wine (and we need only receive one of those), and saying yes to God being part of one’s life in this intimate act of consuming is too powerful to do alone.
Again, there is so much more that could be said that is at least as important as these words. So this week’s Adult Forum (March 8 9AM) will be talking more about Episcopalians’ ways of public worship together and the ways those worship forms can be meaningful.
Some links on Corporate Prayer…
Learning to Pray through Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer Online
The Eucharistically Shaped Life