Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Full Circle of Worship

                The congregation where My Midnight Man and I are involved, the local St. Mary’s Church, Langley , is a Church of England.   It is not high church; there are no incenses, no canter, no chanting.  But the weekly service is traditional.  Returning to a set liturgy with scripture readings, responsive readings, recitation of prayers and the Apostles’ Creed was rather like coming home for me; especially in terms of following the annual church calendar of Lent, Good Friday, Easter and then Harvest Festival, and Christmas followed by Epiphany. 
When I was born my parents were members of the Nazarene Church.  As a baby I was wrapped up in blankets and taken to the church for a dedication service--as were my siblings.  Each time my parents moved, they sought out a church to commit to, to serve in.  As a little girl I had to stand on the pews to sing the songs and see what was going on.  In 1970, when I was eleven years old, we moved to Martinsville, Indiana and we joined the Methodist Church. 
Alter and Choir Stalls
In my teenage years I got involved with the charismatic movement and attended independent churches.  In the charismatic church I found freedom to dance, raise my hands, bow on my knees, prostrate myself on the floor and freely give physical expression to my love for God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  More than once the touch of the Holy Spirit would manifest with tears running down my cheeks, my hands shaking and the sensation of warm oil flowing over my head.  For years I couldn’t figure out why anyone who had tasted this free and emotional experience in God would want to return to a highly structured and formal church. 
Yet, after my marriage and moving to England, I found that I missed following the Christmas Season with the advent candles, the beautiful gospel songs, called Christmas Carols, which held the message of God coming to mankind. 
Baptismal Font & Glass Window
I discovered St. Mary’s Langley one November morning in 2008.  Every Tuesday morning, Langley Community Forum sponsors  a coffee morning.  Volunteers from the Langley Churches and the Forum serve biscuits, cakes, coffee and conversation in a communal area at the  Langley Library.  I'd been going a few weeks.  One morning I was introduced to the vicar’s wife and we made an immediate connection.  During our chat, I discovered that she and her husband, the Vicar, were filled with the Holy Spirit and involved with the charismatic branch of the Church of England. 
I decided to attend services at St. Mary’s Langley, at least through the Christmas season.  Okay, so I was a bit lost when “O come, O come Immanuel and ransom captive Israel...” was accompanied by a tune I’d never heard before.  Yet, the whole month of December focused on preparing our hearts to receive and worship Jesus. 
Attending a formal church allowed the words of the liturgy to become the focus of my worship.  The first prayer is a prayer of preparation:
Almighty God,
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord.
Congrational Seating
Because of my age (and hopefully--perhaps a bit of maturity), the aesthetic beauty of a service that focuses on the entire congregation reciting this prayer as one person found fresh significance for me.  I think it was a way for me to engage in worship with more of my mind as well as my heart.  It was this significance that the Holy Spirit used to speak to me that I’d found my new Spiritual home. 
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, the desire to be received into the Church of England was taking my British identification to a deeper level.  I wanted to be a part of a village parish.  As I thought about it later, I understood that it was just another layer of “British Dream” coming true.
Worship is a lifestyle, something that goes beyond the kind of songs we sing or the tempo we sing them.  Reciting my belief in “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic church” (as presented in the Church of England’s Prayer Book) isn’t about becoming reserved in expressing love and adoration to Jesus Christ.  There is a dynamic that happens when I am joining my voice with those at St. Mary’s Langley, and the whole of the Church of England having a worship service at 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning.  That dynamic of expression and belief is just as powerful as raising my hands in a prophetic gesture during a charismatic service. 
I don’t prefer one style of worship over another—I love it all.  However, what I do need is a local church where I can contribute, build relationships and serve.  So, while some people would think that returning to a formal church service is back-tracking, for me it is actually just coming full circle.  Home is where the Holy Spirit leads. 
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,  “Lady Helene”


  1. I know what you mean about the liturgy of the church calendar year. I missed that alot while involved in non-liturgical churches. Since Larry & I have moved to California and are now participating in the local Methodist church where Michelle is the worship leader, I too, feel like I have come full-circle. Started out as Catholic, then thru the Charismatic renewal and several non-traditional churches now back in the structure of liturgy. We struggle with some of the staidness of this body of believers as the median age is 80+ and very set in 'old church' ways. I have to chuckle when I overhear their comments about the 'modern music' intruding on their traditional mindset... the music they are now calling contemporary is what you and I sang at church in Martinsville 25 years ago! Too funny!

  2. Wonderful post. Sometimes I think we try to "throw out the baby with the bath water." There are parts of my growing up in a "Dutch Refomed" church that still bless me. I especially love the offering response song.
    "We give Thee but Thine own
    What 'ere the gift may be
    All that we have is Thine alone
    A trust, O Lord, from Thee."

    We are now in a church that used to be Baptist, but is now independent and "contemporary." We love the worship, but I miss both the amazing hymns and the old Scripture songs we used to sing. How much Scripture we have "hidden in our hearts" because of those songs.

  3. Dear Dalletta,
    I find that belonging to the Catholic Church, in particular where we have been for the last 25 years, is a wonderful uplifting experience. We meet in a simple Anglaican Church, and the joy over the years of being Catholic, is that we have attended Catholic services in protestant churches around the world, and the service in whatever language is the same. What I find truly uplifting is the way the churches shar their beautiful old churches. We once went to a Catholic Service in a wonderful Noram church in the Broads, where an Anglican service had just been held, and then after our service there was to be a Methodist service. Wonderful how God works his wonders.
    Much love Barbara