Sunday, August 07, 2005

House church

Last night, we had a lovely evening at our friends’ house, all of us hanging out on the wide front porch. Another friend had also arrived to hang out with us and spend the night, so there we were, five lefty, overeducated, lesbian Episcopalians, shootin’ the breeze all evening. We had a brief discussion about what time church was the next morning and just how hot the unairconditioned building was going to be (something with which D. and I are very familiar, since our parish building is also hotter than hell). We quickly agreed that it was going to be too much of a pain for all five of us to get up and showered (in the house's single full bathroom) and breakfasted before 10:00 a.m. church, so we decided to do “house church” instead. One of the friends we were staying with this weekend is a priest, so we decided she could celebrate the Eucharist and we would do church ourselves.

So that’s what we did this morning. We sat around the dining room table with our friends’ chalice and paten, port in the former and a carefully cut-out circle of bread on the latter. Three of us lay folk read the Hebrew bible, psalm, and epistle readings (I got the last one), our priest friend read the gospel passage, D. gave us a short reflection to start off the “sermon”—in this case, a conversation about the lectionary passages—and then the priest celebrated the Eucharist and we served one another the bread and wine. We used Eucharistic prayer C, which is lovely and is the one we chose for our blessing (my two favorite lines: “At your command all things came to be: … this fragile earth, our island home” and “Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal”). (Unfortunately, the people’s responses are more complicated than in the other Eucharistic prayers; one of my friends pointed this out [since none of us had Books of Common Prayer in front of us], and another friend said, “Well, that’s okay, we all have the responses memorized”; of course, as the least church-y person in the group, I actually did NOT have the responses memorized, although I knew them well enough to fake my way through it, and of course I knew the rest of the service just fine.)

What a lovely way to worship this morning! Clearly such a small community of congenial friends wouldn’t be the way to worship every week, at least as one’s primary service—mostly because it would be too easy and comfortable. Part of being a worshiping community is having to live into Christian charity with one’s brothers and sisters in Christ who are completely annoying, who disagree with one, who are different enough that we all grow and stretch by gathering around the table together (can you tell I’m thinking about tomorrow night’s vestry meeting?); plus there’s that whole radical hospitality thing to the sick and hungry and disenfranchised, and I’m not going to encounter that with my friends, who mostly share the same kinds of privilege that I do. But for one weekend, in a gathering that was essentially a temporary retreat from the world into the bosom of friendship, it was just wonderful.


Blogger PPB said...

blessings on that vestry meeting.

8/07/2005 11:04 PM  
Blogger YelloCello said...

Home church among friends sounds lovely to me.

A childhood friend's lefty Catholic parents did the same thing with their friends once in a while. I once had a chance to share in one of their home meetings, and I still cherish that memory... So I'm awfully glad for you all.

And may the vestry meeting be as painless as possible.

8/08/2005 12:41 AM  
Blogger La Lecturess said...

How lovely!

(Much as I love the RCC liturgy, I really envy you the BCP--which I encounter regularly in my scholarship, so I know just how much I'm missing!)

8/08/2005 1:07 AM  
Blogger Terminaldegree said...

This sounds beautiful! And what wonderful friends.

8/08/2005 4:41 AM  
Blogger Songbird said...

It's good to have that meal with friends sometimes. Thank you for sharing the experience with the rest of us.

8/08/2005 7:15 AM  
Blogger BrightStar said...

liturgy in one's home -- that's how church worship began, right? Sounds like a splendid celebration.

8/08/2005 8:40 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

and you've highlighted my favorite passages in C as well, especially the latter.

8/08/2005 9:59 AM  
Blogger Jane said...

My uncle is a priest, and some of my earliest memories are of him saying Mass at the dining room table before thanksgiving dinner, with the whole family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents) gathered around. Your story so reminded me of this!

8/08/2005 10:37 AM  
Blogger Tiruncula said...

What a wonderful experience! There are some Sundays when that's just the church experience I'm looking for, but unfortunately I don't have enough priests on call. Must work on that :)

8/08/2005 12:22 PM  
Blogger jo(e) said...

That sounds so wonderful! I want to come next time. I can be one of those annoying people! Really, I could.

8/08/2005 3:28 PM  
Blogger Friday Mom said...

Sounds wonderful, a striking contrast to what you are likely just finishing up, I imagine! Hope the vestry meeting was okay.

8/08/2005 9:51 PM  
Blogger Apostle John said...

As a Presbyterian minister, few of my parishioners would have the responses memorized -- however I do remember using the opening lines of a collect, "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid..."

I was going to just use that opening line and create my own wording, but the woman I was visiting in the hospital was saying the words with me! I prayed silently "Lord help me remember the whole collect"

He did.

8/16/2005 3:40 PM  

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