Moments of grace

My blogging friend, the Revd Chris Epperson, writes about a recent experience at St. George’s School in Middletown, RI. He’s been serving as Interim Chaplain there, and he describes a singular moment during a recent confirmation service.

In my mind, the great moment in the service happened at the Fraction. As Bishop [Geralyn] Wolf broke the bread, she started to spontaneously sing a fraction anthem. She sang in a hushed tone, the mic quietly amplified. The alleluias slowly wafted through the enormous chapel. All fidgeting ceased. It became very quiet except for the alleluias washing over all. It was quite a moving moment of the pronounced presence of the Holy Spirit.

For me, it was a moment signifying hope. It was a moment that showed just how open young people are to transcendence. The Church is always talking about how to reach younger people. We are always looking for innovative ways to accomplish this. Yet, in the midst of a very normal Confirmation, it happened. Maybe, it is less about us, and more about the Spirit.

I would add only that it’s not just young people. Most people are open to transcendence, but we don’t seem to allow enough of these moments in our liturgy. In the parish I serve — which tends to be a pretty boisterous place, liturgically speaking — one vestry member recently cited the silence at Ash Wednesday as the most God-filled moment in the recent past. Go figure. God’s transcendent presence shows up in surprising places.

(The photo is the only one I could find online of the interior of the chapel Chris writes about. A pity, because it’s stunning, and worth a trip to see.)

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6 Responses

  1. it’s surprising that transcendence would show up in silence? i’m hoping that was said with an ironic twinkle.

    of course, worship services are the way they are because clergy like them that way. the chief obstacle to silence in church is clergy who either want to talk, or are afraid of silence, or are worried what people will think, or something else of the kind.

    a priest of my acquaintance would NEVER put silence after the fraction, which bugged a member of the congregation enough to ask about it. the odd thing was that there was way too much silence *after* the “invitation to communion” while the priest would fritter around pouring wine and handing things out and folding fabric bits around, and such. but that didn’t feel like silence to him, b/c he was busy. and, b/c he was busy, nobody can experience it as silence.

    how nice to be at a service where that one mandatory silence is observed, and then the breaking and pouring and fetching and arranging and such is done during the fraction anthem where it belongs, instead of after the invitation.

  2. In the parish I attend, the fraction anthem begins the very second the bread is broken. Everyone at the altar stands at attention for the whole thing, and only when it’s finished does all the pouring and fetching, etc., start. And this parish takes far longer to get itself organized for distributing the Sacrament than any other I’ve ever attended.

  3. bls says:

    Amen, Amen.

  4. John-Julian, OJN says:

    But does St. George’s chapel still have all those awful flags hanging all over the place — like a regimental chapel in an English Cathedral?

  5. Scott Gunn says:

    Thomas, it’s not surprising to me that transcendence appears in quiet moments. But it must be a shocker to most clergy and liturgical leaders, because most liturgies seem to have zero deliberate silence, sadly. I also meant that many people seem to have ideas about what “young people” will find meaningful, and those ideas are often the opposite of what is true, in my experience.

    John-Julian, I didn’t notice awful flags.

    Appropos my earlier post, the prayer book envisions peopel coming forard whilst the priest is receiving communion. Watching the clergy eat and drink (in silence) wasn’t meant to be a big moment in our liturgy. Sadly, we seem to skip the silence that should be there (at the fraction) and add some that might be something other (at the communion of the people).

    Pax,
    Scott

  6. Chris says:

    I think the flags are in the refectory.

    Chris

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