Friday, July 13, 2012


Under the category of "don't take church too seriously," I offer these observances:

Recently, I attended "The Welcome Table" worship, the Sunday Morning service at 8am at Epiphany Episcopal Church, in downtown DC.  This congregation consists of fifty to seventy five street people, the ten or so lay volunteers who serve a hot breakfast for them, and a half a dozen folks like me who simply enjoy this diverse crowd.  (This is very different from the later morning service, that I have not attended, which consists of folks who work and live in DC, making their career in politics or hospitality or other DC-like vocations.)

At The Welcome Table service, the "prelude" is sung by the sometimes out of tune walk-up choir of three or four people who belt out a popular hymn. Or, one of the street folks offers a heart-felt solo.  After we all read an opening prayer together, the Liturgy of the Word continues with readers for the lessons and someone guides the congregation in sharing the psalm.  Sometimes their speech impediment prevents clear understanding.  Sometimes the words are difficult for them to pronounce.  Sometimes they are shy at the lectern.  Always, their countenance is love.

During the homily, I heard stereophonic snoring.  The man sitting in the pew directly behind me was fast asleep, gurgling as he breathed deeply.  A man a few rows up was out cold, head tilted uncomfortably to the left.  The "cool cat" with the sunglasses on in the front row was perusing a magazine, turning the pages of his reading material quite loudly.  The smell of someone who had not showered in, say, an entire season, waifed across the sanctuary. Occasionally someone from the back, agreeing with the preacher, shouts an "Amen!" that wakes up a few people.  Always, the congregation gathered respects each persons' needs and dignity.

In the midst of the Eucharistic prayer, when the celebrant touches the bread and says, "on the night that Jesus died, he took bread, and when he gave thanks to you, he broke it..." - *just* then, a wandering street person traipsed in front of the raised altar platform with his rolling bag and all his belongings, to cross the space to get to the other side.  He was mumbling to himself, quietly, but he was quietly ignored by the celebrant.  The prayer continued with out missing a beat, "and gave it to them and said, Take Eat, this is my body given for you." Always... his body given in so many forms.

On Tuesday, when I attended "Street Church," there was a similar mid-Eucharistic prayer interruption.  The enthusiastic lay helper tapped the celebrant on the shoulder, offering her some hand sanitizer.  Seriously, it was mid-prayer just after blessing the bread but before the wine was blessed. 

As I reflect on my year of Episcopal formation, learning the "proper" forms of prayers, the "proper" hand movements, the "proper" way to be with the congregation, I realized *this* was a time to learn how NOT to take church so seriously.  What is serious, is that mid-Eucharistic prayer interruptions by well-meaning people in all their humanness might give a pause, but that pause brings glory to God.

Seriously - love, love and love.  That's all.  That matters.  Seriously.