The congregation where My Midnight Man and I are involved, the local St. Mary’s Church, Langley , is a Church of England. http://langleymarish.com/stm.htm 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:
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.
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”