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A holy Space for God (with text!)

  • Posted on Mar 17, 2011

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2:13-17

On Tuesday evening, we gathered in the Memorial chapel to say Evening Prayer before our Lenten supper and program. The topic for the evening was how we worship in our Memorial space. The lectionary appointed for the daily office was the Gospel passage above—Jesus cleaning the temple. It is amazing how the daily and Sunday lectionary can so clearly speak to our daily lives. It was as if God had handpicked the passage for Tuesday night!

Worship is the heart of who we are as Episcopalians. Our Book of Common Prayers centers our worship in the Eucharist each Sunday and in the daily office during the week. Some of us take in another Eucharist mid-week. The space that we use to worship is critical to our worship experience. Liturgical theologian William Seth Adams in his book Moving The Furniture talks about four characteristics of good worship space: (1) Worship Space as comfort, safety and security. A sense that our worship space brings us home to God. I felt this so vividly on the day of September 11, 2001, when we gathered in the chapel to say the Great Litany at Noonday and for Eucharist that evening. (2) Worship space as the ground of our identity as God’s people. We find what it is to follow Jesus as Lord in our worship space. (3) Worship Space as a place for movement of bodies in praise and prayer. The worship space should allow us to stand and sing in praise, to kneel in prayer and to walk to the altar rail to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, (4) The worship space should give us some tangible sense of the Kingdom of God that is being built right before our very eyes. On Tuesday night, we pondered how the Memorial worship space brought us close to God and one another through these four lenses.

We also talked about what ONE ELEMENT was crucial to our experience of worship at Memorial. The majority of us gathered said the altar. Not the historic stone altar, but the wooden free-standing altar. This was a central focus for most of us. If it was moved out of place, we felt as if our very security and comfort was missing. What does this mean for all the ministries that take place in our worship space that do not involve the altar? What does it mean to move the central focus of worship, even if we put it back for Sunday worship? Our conversation continues. What is the most important element of your worship space for you?