Thursday, August 4, 2011

At the National Cathedral

Ever since I got back from visiting with my daughter Cristin in D.C. in July, I’ve wanted to share about my experience at the National Cathedral. I tried to tie it in with all that has occurred this summer, which is a lot. But what I wrote wasn’t coming together, so I’ve decided to just keep it simple and tell about one hour in one day--the Sunday folk Eucharist at the National Cathedral.

This service was held in the basement of the grand cathedral in a small chapel and led by a woman priest. Rickey had read about her on the web site--she is in charge of the music and she leads a centering prayer group. I found her to be warm, welcoming, and humble. The refrain of the morning was "This is the folk service and we are the folk," which, translated, meant we were all invited to be active participants. We were asked to volunteer for the readings. Cristin volunteered to lead the prayers of the people and was directed to read from a simple notebook where the prayers were freshly written specifically for that day. Also, "the folk" was the choir, so we practiced the songs before the service began--the instruments were acoustic guitars. Communion was served to us as we formed a circle.

But the most meaningful part of all was when the priest announced there was no sermon, but rather a discussion. It was typed in the bulletin: in place of "Sermon" was "Discussion." She asked us to be relaxed about sharing what "struck us" (doesn't that sound familiar :-) from any of the readings. We weren't to worry about connecting to each other. She said in her experience the Holy Spirit did the connecting for us. She made some opening remarks and opened the floor. Without any dominating personalities and with relaxed politeness, about six people responded, one at a time. If they had small voices, she repeated what they said for the rest of us. With gentleness and sincerity, she added, clarified, or merely accepted what was shared.

Before we started communion, she told us she would be leaving immediately after her part because she was going to be participating in the "big service" upstairs in the main sanctuary. She said the guitar leader would finish leading us, and then there would be announcements. I loved this part-- during the announcements about four or five different lay leaders popped up and shared briefly about how we could join in a variety of social justice projects--feeding the homeless, donating food for the poor, donating personal hygiene products for the homeless, donating socks for the homeless. We were offered the opportunity to give money, but the emphasis seemed to be on how to be directly involved. Rickey's sister, who had traveled to D.C. with me, made an offering and picked up a small brochure about reaching the homeless.

When I read the brochure later, I was impressed how it began by giving specific directions for connecting people with serious needs to helpful programs—food, clothing, shelter, counseling, and jobs. God was mentioned, of course, but it seemed to represent more his open hands than religious or reprimanding words.

Before I left, I briefly toured the huge cathedral. It is an amazing structure, and I was impressed by its grandeur and beauty, but mostly I came away encouraged, inspired and moved by my experience sharing the Eucharist in the basement with other "folk," who I recognize as other livingstones.


Paul Corrigan said...

Anna, I am grateful for this post for several reasons.

Everything that you've described about the service and tour of the cathedral sounds absolutely wonderful. I am refreshed and invigorated by it.

And I am also saddened that such things are so exceptional. Shouldn't there be plenty of services everywhere like that?

Also, with all the bad that is happening in that city right now, it is so important for us to hear about something so good, even good in its smallness, that is also happening there.

Another reason that I'm particularly grateful for this post is that I've been somewhat anguished (perhaps that's too strong of a word, perhaps not) that none of us had posted to this blog in so long. Thank you for sharing.

RC said...

Anna, I love how this experience mixes the spiritual, the beautiful, and practical good works. I love how this worship service was both reverent and yet personal and connecting. I'm grateful for your sharing this experience with us, and I'm grateful to be in relationship with brothers and sisters who value and invest in this kind of spirituality.

Daniel said...

Anna, I'm jealous of your participation in such a service! What a profound way to share liturgy in a small setting. Thanks for highlighting your experience for us!

John Orzechowski said...

Anna, thank you for sharing this. I enjoyed reading your account of your participation with that community. My favorite part, perhaps unsurprisingly, is how the the practical social ministry opportunities flow out of worship. With Daniel, I'm quite jealous of your experience.

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