Friday, July 8, 2011

From Transcendence to Presence: My Affection for Anglican Tradition is rooted in the Now – A Guest Post by The Rev. Jim Hamilton

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Now, our guest post:

The credence table is set, candles lit, altarware ready.  Now, I can prepare myself.  Sure, I can go through the motions; the drama will pull me in even if my heart resists.  Everything about the setting, the ragtag group gathered, the drone of prayers and praises undergirding the prayer I sing will guide me into my meditation.  No matter my anxiety, distraction or frustration, God will meet me in the moments to come.  Peace flows into me like the tide to the pool by the shore.*  But, I find that further depth is reached when I wade in first, wash up, prepare myself. 

“Set your minds on high,” I sing my invocation, now barefoot, surrounded by candlelight and dressed in a friend’s cassock.  “From common things to the mysterious we set our focus,” my friends and family reply, dancing with each other in harmonies as the melody is constructed for the first time.  While the prayer is far from common, it mingles in a choral mass enriched by every individual voice, mistakes and all, in search of perfection.  There may be no red book to follow along with, but we are people of the spirit of the book.

This service an emergent worship laboratory that some of my friends and I have been nurturing in a posh suburb of a disheartened Detroit.  Though this particular project is in its early stages, its dramatic otherness, its transcendence to draw me into Presence is a perfect example of why I love the Episcopal Church.

William Temple expressed what I mean; “To the restless fever of this world and its tumult no man can bring healing unless he habitually lives in the presence of the eternal God with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning, and has in his own soul some measure of the peace which passeth understanding.  We are not to neglect the eternal world but to live here and now as its citizens.”

It is the expansive now-ness of this church that I fell in love with in my twenties, its commitment to service, its readiness and community.  Now, in my thirties, I find that our unique blend of past and yet to come makes the now even deeper.  It is the peace in our worship that drives us to service, revived and excited to spread the love of God.  I would be wrong to brag that we have a monopoly on now-ness.  In fact, Episcopalians make up the minority of our little Anglican experimental worship service.  But, the service itself is a gift from an Episcopal tradition to an inquisitive world.  I see no reason why we must nurture our gift within a paradigm of worry, desperate for self preservation for its own sake.  Maybe our call is to, without requiring membership or inculcation, share this liturgical peace which passeth understanding with a restless, feverish and tumultuous world.

* from a poem by Sarah Teasdale

The Rev. Jim Hamilton is rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and convenor of Lex Orandi.  Plug into their Facebook page here: