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The blog—informal opinions and chat about the parish

Friday, February 2, 2018

I or We?

A few weeks ago, we had a Sunday morning visit from Brad Purdom, Canon for Congregations. He was supposed to be doing an "instructional Eucharist," and I thought I knew what to expect. "Here's when you cross yourself, and here's why."

Not bad stuff. Kind of interesting. Useful if you aren't too comfortable with the usual Episcopal way of doing things.

That's not what he did.

I have probably forgotten half of what he said, but the half that remains is that when we get together on a Sunday morning, it's all about US the corporate Christian entity, not about the I of my personal devotional life.

That emphasis is all through the liturgy. The confession of sins is first person plural. A prayer we all repeat every Sunday begins "Our Father." Several versions of the Nicene Creed are available, but the one for Sunday worship begins, "We believe."

Like most really good teaching, this one elicits the response, "Why didn't I catch that before? Of course!"

This isn't the way my previous Christian experience went. My memory of Eucharist is primarily of sitting in a pew, balancing a thimble of grape juice and considering my personal relationship with God. My memory of preaching (whether sermons I gave or sermons I heard) is almost all about a personal response to the Gospel: What am I going to do about it? Even the modern Charismatic movement, with all the corporate singing and dancing, is primarily focused on my emotional response to God. "Was Sunday worship good?" = "Did I enjoy it?"

I don't think Purdom wanted to eliminate personal response to God; in fact, I know that's a very vivid part of his message. But this was different. We, as a group, are the body of Christ, and Sunday in an Episcopal church is a celebration of that unity.

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