Hallo again to all.
We admit it. We missed church this morning. Despite its being Low Sunday or Quasimodo Sunday, we had every intention of being there as usual, but sleep patterns and alarm clocks and fatigue interfered. By the time we were awake enough to comprehend what the clock was telling us, it was too late. Maybe we were fatigued by the many worship events of Holy Week; maybe we got deprived of sleep when we got up before sunrise to watch that wedding in London; maybe we're just getting old. And the Easter-week funeral of our beloved friend Tom took something out of us that only sleep and prayer seem to be able to restore.
But missing church is guaranteed to make us feel odd. When it happens, we usually manage to read the day's scripture, and wonder what hymns we missed, and otherwise try to compensate for the loss of its absence. It never really works. We have never found any substitute for liturgy. Perhaps if our worship tradition was non-liturgical, we'd not miss it so much.
We understand that many worship traditions are quite non-liturgical. We've been to Anglican worship services in several countries that were essentially just Bible readings and a homily reflecting on one of them. As a visitor, we watched the congregation disperse looking as though they felt quite churched, in a way that they wouldn't have felt had they stayed home and studied those same readings and read the text of the homily. Strange, but true.
This past week we've experienced one wedding and a funeral. Neither ceremony would have carried any meaning at all without liturgy, and in these two cases it was full-on high-church Anglican liturgy done right. After these two events, and then missing church the Sunday after, we have come to believe that there is a deeply-rooted fundamental human need for liturgy. Couples that have never seen the inside of a church except in cinema ask for a wedding ceremony based on the Book of Common Prayer. Families that scorn religion and mock the faithful still seem to long for something liturgical and reverent when it's time to bury their dead.
The Guardian (London) said 'The royal wedding had a global audience in the hundreds of millions.' The USA's ABC News claims that more than 1 million people in the U.K. referenced the wedding in their Facebook status updates.
Why? Why not just read about it the next morning? For that matter, why didn't this couple just go to a registrar and get married in a civil ceremony? They'd still be just as married. And why such fuss at a funeral, with hymns and psalms and holy water and chants? Why not just have people stand in a line to walk up to the coffin, tap on it, say 'Farewell, old friend' and then head for the bar?
We want to mark passages in our lives with ceremony, and not just with a checklist. The majority of the widespread ceremonies that seem to have stood the test of time are religious ceremonies. We'd venture a guess that half of the people attending the wedding in Westminster Abbey last week hadn't been in a church since Christmas, but they certainly would have felt very cheated had the actual wedding been performed by a registrar without music or fanfare or had it not been a religious ceremony. Even those who say they don't believe in God seem to want Him at their weddings and funerals and graduations.
We were thinking of sending to our Rector an email of apology for missing the service, but we didn't. By missing church this morning, we hurt only ourself. By the end of the week, as next Sunday approaches, we suspect that its lingering absence will be overpowering. We know we'll be several time zones away from home next Sunday, so we'll have to make sure we find a liturgical Anglican church nearby. The thought of missing church two weeks in a row is, well, terrifying.
See you next week.
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