This morning I got up in time to hang out with some of our higher church friends at All Angels by the Sea Episcopal. It was lots of fun. I liked the singing, the choir and the friendly older folks (besides a couple of kids I was the only one under 50).
It's good to remember what its like to be a newcomer/ visitor every once an awhile. I loved the service- but found myself very confused as I flipped back and forth from the bulletin to the Common Book of Prayer, to the Hymn book- thank goodness they printed the scriptures for me in a handout.
Kneeling- now there's something I don't do much as a Disciple. I get it more now- its very humbling and painful to be on your knees. Kneeling is a sign of both respect, repentance and sacrifice- and I did feel repentant and reverent on my knees. It reminded me of "kneeling on grits"- I can't remember if I read this in "The Secret Life of Bees" or if I heard this tale from a Southern friend- but I have heard of this cruel punishment inflicted by parents. Kneeling on a bench certainly isn't that bad- and I willingly volunteered for that rather than it being a punitive punishment.
Another thing I've noticed here is that most of the snowbirds- and the people I've talked to around here have pronounced northern accents. I became even more acutely aware of my difference when the visitors in church were invited to introduce themselves at the end of the service and I said in my best southern drawl, "I'm Sunny B from Tennessee!" Just kidding, but I did say I was an associate pastor from Tennessee- and lots of people greeted and welcomed me.
One other thing I liked really well was the scripture reading. The Old Testament, Psalm and Epistle reading were done from the Lectern then when it came time for the Gospel reading- the lay leaders (all decked out in robes and albs) came down into the middle of the congregation. Everyone stood for the reading and while one man read, a woman held the bible and another man a large cross. It was a really nice ceremony.
Oh God, today I have once again experienced the blessing of your church in yet another form. You are present anytime two or more are gathered in your name and so I thank you for all your many communities of worship. Thank you that most Sundays I have the pleasure of leading people in worship, and thank you that today I could simply be in worship and enjoy it with a new community. Amen.