I did not grow up in the kind of Anglican church with elaborate liturgical practices. Rather, I grew up in an Anglican church that was frequently without a priest, and so relied on a dedicated group of volunteer laypeople to plan and lead Sunday worship. These were wonderful people-but they were not liturgists. They were very busy mothers and teachers and doctors and farmers and many other things as well. And yet, Sunday after Sunday, someone was ready to stand and lead us in prayer, ready to offer their thoughts on the readings, ready to hold us together in the presence of God for that one, holy hour.
Years later, as I began to explore my sense of calling, it was this act of gathering and holding that captured my heart. It still does. I love the moment just before the eucharistic prayer begins. Everything has been brought to the altar-bread and wine, money and labour, petitions and confessions, griefs, hopes, and doubts, bodies and souls. It’s all there-we’re all there, waiting to be transformed by the Spirit.
And it happens! The mundane, human things of our lives are taken up into God’s reality and returned to us not quite as they had been. Brought into the presence of God, they then carry God’s presence with them back into the world-to hospitals, family dinner tables, soup kitchens, even to parish council! And I know that God was already there-but sometimes it is hard to see that.
Worship isn’t simply something we do or experience. Rather, it is something that shapes what we do and who we are. In worship, we are reminded that the line between the sacred and the profane can be crossed. We become people who see God and, in seeing God, we become people who can point to God.
This becoming does not only happen when we celebrate Eucharist, as my childhood experience demonstrates. Indeed, it doesn’t even happen only in church. It happens whenever and wherever we worship, pausing to make our offering to God and rejoice in God’s presence with us. This is a gift the church can give those seeking to know God, equipping them with bedtime prayers and mealtime grace, Advent wreaths and home blessings and morning thanksgivings to help their whole lives become worship.
When it comes right down to it, this is why I go to church. I go to have my week touched by God. I go so that I can recognize the presence of Christ when I’m not in church. I go so that I don’t forget where it all comes from and what it’s all for. I go to take my place in the body of Christ and be renewed in that identity to the glory of God and for the good of God’s creation. I go to be formed into one who worships at all times and in all places, at the altar and in the pews and at my desk and in my kitchen and everywhere in between.