January 25, 2009

Living Rituals

I was raised Episcopalian. Reading Aloud from a Prayer Book can be just like singing a song. Sometimes the words are alive. Sometimes you’re just mouthing the words. A lot of evangelicals who fill pews on Sunday probably aren’t feeling every verse on the projection screen, but they’d probably bristle before reading pre-written prayers. Ah, well. Some people think spontaneity equals spirituality.

When I lived in Lithia Springs, I used to say I wished we had more sayings. Or poems. Or prayers to repeat (the same way each time). Somehow, I never wrote any. Sometimes we’d quote lines from songs, sometimes as prayers. One day I used the word “liturgy” with the brothers in Arlington and I think it scared a few people. But any time we made a plan for a meeting, that was a “liturgy”. That’s all the word means.

I can’t stand pews or sermons, but once again tonight I feel drawn to the memory of reading from that prayer book. I felt the same way my junior year of college, when I’d burned out on trying to create my perfect “quiet time with the Lord” every morning. I quit listening to everything the evangelicals were telling me and I went back to St. James downtown. For most of the hour, I heard a gaggle of voices directed at the Lord, not one preacher’s voice directed at my head.

In all of my house church years, I continued to fail, mostly, at quietism. Maybe I’m just too ADD. But I realized recently that making everything still was to feel the Lord moving inside me. (I always thought he was supposed to be very still, too.) Maybe that’s why the thing that always meant the most to me was brothers meetings. When I stood arm in arm with a few other men, and we joined our voices together in singing, then amen-ed each other when talking to Him… there has yet to be anything else on earth that draws me into His presence like that did. I almost always felt the Lord moving in brothers meetings.

Aside from the details of my daily crap, which very much is worth sharing with him, I don’t have much to say to the Lord that I haven’t told him before. There are phrases my wife and I use – not all the time, but at times – that are full of meaning, and they get richer each time even though we say them almost the same way every time. I’d like to have some prayers that are like that, with the Lord.

Aside from that, I miss brothers meetings. The joining of our voices primes the joining of our spirits. And I long to pursue the Lord once again, with some others…


Neil said...

Some things taste better after they've been laid aside for a while, and you take them up again. Some things improve with age. Some things get better as YOU age. Anything that makes you reconnect with Him is good--doesn't matter what it is.

Anonymous said...

Does that mean you're going to church with me Next Sunday:)

Bill Heroman said...

All I want is a sturdy ship, and a star to steer her by.

Anonymous said...

I am being drawn to the "The Lords Prayer" more and more.
It really says everything, for me.

I have been musing (again) on the similarities between 'institutionalism' and 'the things we just do' (or maybe "handles" as we like to call them).

It's all kind of silly, really.

Bill Heroman said...

Praise the Lord, Johnny! The LP is a prayer of great spiritual depth and of spiritual action. I don't make any distinction between "doing & being", but I do think I get what you're saying.

To me, the danger of institutionalism isn't that we do someactivity, but that we might get so caught up in only it that we miss the Lord. I don't think I saw that in Lithia. I learned that prayers, meetings & even simple conversation all require structure. The beautiful part is that it really only takes a little bit.

So if we pray from the heart, let it be unto the Lord. Or if we read written prayers, let it be unto the Lord. And if we establish habitual patterns of doing things, let them be temporary, but as long as they be, let them be unto the Lord.

You feelin me, dawg? ;)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I hear ya, broski.
To me, it always comes down to 'flesh' or 'spirit'.
Things are just things, and they are all temporal (temporary). It's more about "In what mode am I?".. no matter what (or where).
It's all the same.

And yet still, I try not to become preoccupied with the "mode" question.

Just living in light of Him, I guess, would be one way to put it.
Peace, bro.

Mike Morrell said...

Great post, Bill. Odd how I've been thinking much the same thing, though I never grew up Episcopal. The way I see it, liturgy is 'the work of the people.' This can be done in a heavy-handed, hierarchical manner, or it could be open-source (yet consistent). Some believers in the UK have been treating the liturgy as open-source for a number of years now; you should check their experiments out.

Mike Morrell said...

Also there's this memoir, Take This Bread by my friend Sara Miles. Her story is very much about encountering Christ unexpectedly amid a very odd open-source Episcopal church out west. If you're too cheap to get the book you can listen to these podcasts where she describes some of how they meet. (But it should also be in most libraries)

Bill Heroman said...

@ Johnny - those are good ways to put it.

@ Mike - thanks for the comments and links. I do appreciate your thoughts. My brother's wedding in 2000 was a full communion service and the first I'd attended in five years. I found the Lord very powerfully during the service that night. So maybe these are sides of me you never knew...

...but don't misunderstand. While I know the Lord always hides in that liturgy, I assure you I'll never (regularly) go back to hiding in their pews. I was just making comparisons to express how I feel.

In Louisiana, I knew many Catholics and Episcopalians who seemed to have active and rich devotional lives, spiritually, with the Lord. And every sunday morning, they worshiped through the liturgy, surrounded by a hundred other folks who may or may not have been. So?

I want more...

SteveK said...

Bill, I have found that Psalms 120 to 135 provide words for me to pray back to God when I run out of creativity myself. Some have been set to music, but I like to just read them.

Mike Morrell said...

Nah, I think I knew that side of you, however faint. And the links I sent you (to the alt.worship sites, at least) aren't by 'pew-warmers' at all. To be sure, most of 'em gather in basilicas, but in groups not much larger than ones we're used to, and usually not in pews or with static officiants. AlternativeWorship.org in particular offers up some good ideas for you to try at home. :)

Home Is Where The Heart Is! said...

Brother, I wish for you a brothers meeting. I also hope that one day you will want something that does not exclude anyone from sharing the Lord with you, because Brother - He is in us All equally. And I have His presence in me daily with a Love so True it is untouchable by human imagination or rationalization. He will BLOW YOUR MIND through me (a simple sister in Jesus.) With much Love and Understading, Annette

Home Is Where The Heart Is! said...

Understanding that is :)

Oh, by the way...I was smiling and happy the whole time I was writing the above comment. It sounds a lot more direct than I intended. I should have just said...Love & miss ya Bill.


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