Mon 19 Jun 2006
The coordination of a daily, common worship for thousands of people must be exquisitely timed. It involves a cast of hundreds. There’s a revolving and international group of greeters, presiders and preachers, deacons and readers, musicians, singers, eucharistic ministers, altar guild members, and so on. There’s a team of American Sign Language interpreters. (The signers pictured here are preparing for the start of the liturgy.) Visual artists, sound engineers, the North American Association for the Diaconate (responsible for the daily intercessions) and the Ministry in Daily Life Committee of the Standing Commission on Ministry Development (responsible for crafting the daily scripture discussion questions) also play key roles in the gatherings. The fundamental assumptions that guided the design of the liturgies are:
- A committment to the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer and the challenge of the Baptismal Covenant
- An acknowledgement that extraordinary gatherings should not attempt to replicate the worship of a local faith community
- An awareness that essentials should not be overwhelmed by non-essentials
- Sensitivity to the diversity of language and culture that characterizes the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion
The Presiding Bishop has noted that “we are using the fullness of our liturgical possibilities (at this convention).”
That’s an understatement. Readings and prayers are offered in multiple languages — English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and Native American, for example. Music has ranged from organ to Gregorian-style chants, to soft rock, to jazz. I have to say, the deep, round, soft tones of an alto sax were surprisingly moving. We have offered prayers for, among others, “all fathers, grandfathers, godfathers, foster fathers, and all who offer parental love and guidance,” environmental conservation, the bishops of the Church, the delegates and nations represented here, justice for all people, the ministries of women, and always for the unity of the church.
But also, as the Presiding Bishop wryly noted one morning after nearly dropping something while at the altar: “There is no perfect liturgy.”
True. Consider the plight of the guys from the band that was to play on “Jazz Sunday” (Father’s Day). There were many problems with their flight from Houston to Columbus the day before. They finally arrived. However, their clothes and, worse, their instruments did not. This situtation required a late-night trip to Wal-Mart for clothing and a mad scramble to rent instruments.
Still and all, we’ve come awfully close to perfection. Over the course of these 9 days, there’s bound to be something that has spoken to the soul of everyone present, young and not so young alike.
It is hard not to believe in the viability and vigorousness of ONE holy, catholic and apostolic church when you hear thousands of voices lifted in song, prayer and greeting, when you drink from the same cup.