Well, it's "Back to School" time this week. Our girls are back in school - one in 4th grade and one in 7th. Hard to believe it's only been 2 weeks since we were in England.
I confess I do miss the worship in England. I guess partly because I could sit back and enjoy it instead of having to do it all myself. But partly because I do like traditional worship and my environment right now is anything but traditional. I miss the music most of all. Me and my guitar just don't hold a candle to the men and boys choir of St. Thomas the Apostle in Leicester!
Which reminds me of the "thinnest" place on our trip. We spent the last 3 days in England up in York. The spirituality of York is more Celtic than Roman (even though the Roman Basilica's northwest corner is under the York Minster's tower!). Roman ruins are everywhere, but the ecclesiology of this part of England was shaped by the Celtic spirituality of people like St. Cuthbert, St. William, James the Deacon and Hilda of Whitby (the last of whom is depicted on the covering to the font at York Minster carrying a crozier!). Anyway, there's a more mystical spirit in York than I found anywhere else.
The night before we left England, we went to Evensong at York Minster. The choir of St. Thomas the Apostle were singing the service and it was August 15 - the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary ... so it was "smells and bells" all the way! The procession entered the quire where we were seated and the choir was vested in classic Anglican style - ruffled collars, red cassocks and white cottas. When the cantor intoned, "O LORD, open thou our lips," the choir responded in exquisite harmony "And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise!" Our youngest daughter's eyes were like saucers. She poked me in the side and whispered, "Whoa!" Whoa is right!
The service was gorgeous and our girls were caught up in it. Our 12 year old was blase (but that's all part of the "being 12" thing), but our 8 year old said afterwards, "I so TOTALLY felt God there!" That's the point ... worship is supposed to transport you outside yourself and connect you with the divine.
I guess that's why I can't really be a full-throttle Protestant. Of course, a true Protestant would point to my need for this kind of worship as proof of my weak faith - after all, such "popish" things are only spiritual crutches. Perhaps that's true, but my experience of Protestant worship is that it spends more time intellectualizing about God than experiencing God. Now that's just one woman's opinion, but that's how I feel. There's a heavy emphasis on Scripture and preaching, but the sacraments and liturgy are more spartan. In fairness, my Protestant brothers and sisters do have some great preaching ... but after the sermon, then what? Don't get me wrong, preaching is important, but it cannot stand alone for me.
The whole of the liturgy stands outside time and space in a way that preaching alone doesn't. It transcends me and my milieu. It connects me with those who have gone before ... and those who will come after I'm long gone. It shapes me, even if I'm not aware of it.
Someone once said of the Anglican liturgy, "You work the words and the words work you." It's an experiential spirituality rather than a dogmatic one. It's a thin place for me ... and my family too.