Sacramental Time   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, October 31, 2010

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/BishopWhitmoreVisitsStGregorySAthens#5534662562033783586)

The regular worship schedule at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, my parish, includes a Wednesday 6:00 P.M. Holy Eucharist and healing service.  This week the priest could not be present, so the duty of leading the midweek service fell eventually to me.  I learned of this duty a few moments before the 10:30 Sunday morning service.  That afternoon I began to make plans.  I decided that, although the bulletin listed the Wednesday service as Evening Prayer, I would use the rite to which regular attendees of the midweek service had become accustomed.  So the service would come from Enriching Our Worship, not The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  I would lop off the Eucharist, for lay presidency seems to be a peculiarity of the Diocese of Sydney, Australia, and omit the use of chrism oil.  But we lay people, by the fact of our baptism, may baptize others in emergency situations.  So we can always pray for each other in normal circumstances.

I made the oral announcement at the 10:30 service that I would lead the service and retain the healing prayers element. My purpose was to encourage the regular quorum to attend.  They did not.  The only other person present was a retired gentleman–an excellent listener, by the way–who had not been present Sunday morning.  He, a regular attendee of the midweek service, shared the time and ministered grace to me.  As I came to realize almost immediately, two was the proper number that evening.

One practice during the midweek service is to pray for others.  Each week I bring a prayer (usually from a book of worship) or a concern from the news.  This week I prayed for malnourished Africans.  It is better to give thanks for one’s blessings and to pray for the needs of others than to carp endlessly about one’s own woes, no matter how severe they might be.  And interceding does take one beyond oneself–surely a useful spiritual exercise.

While asking for intercession for a friend to whom I have had a deep emotional attachment I shared my own emotional struggles in trying to help her through her troubles and in coming to terms with my own emotional turmoil relative to her.  I needed to talk, so I did.  And my fellow parishioner, a retired counselor,  listened and offered some useful advice.

We concluded the ritual.  He went on his way.  I remained, for I had choir practice afterward.  The two of us had shared something sacramental for God had been present.

Q:  Who are the ministers of the Church?

A:  The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 855

Lay persons come first in that list, as we should.  There are more of us than clergymen and clergywomen.  So we ought to do most of the work of the Church, not overload religious professionals.  One act of ministry we can perform is to be present for each other.

Q:  What are the sacraments?

A:  The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 857

Listening and sharing are not among the seven sacraments of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, but they can be just as sacramental as the recognized sacraments:  Baptism, Eucharist, Confession, Confirmation, Anointing, Ordination, and Marriage.  May we never forget that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY WOMEN OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

THE FEAST OF BROTHER ROGER OF TAIZE, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZE COMMUNITY

Posted August 16, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Episcopal Church

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