Work church & Worship church

I was raised in the Presbyterian Church but made the choice in college to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church. I was an active Episcopalian for 40 years, singing in choirs, serving on vestries and altar guilds, making hospital visits, studying in the Education for Ministry program, tending the parish library. I was a member of a search committee to find a cathedral dean in Maine where I also chaired the Stewardship Committee. In short, I did more than just sit in the pew.

That changed when I moved to Texas in 2015 to live with my father. He was a life-long Presbyterian but was no longer happy with his church in Tyler or the time required to get in and out of town for church and events. After my mom died in 2014, he was ready for a change but didn’t make one until I got here. I never had a chance to try another church and was in fact invited to my first choir rehearsal at my current church even before the moving van arrived.

This current church is very different from my experience in the Episcopal Church. Although independent and non-denominational, it’s very heavily Baptist in almost every way. Southern Baptist services are much less formal than the liturgical, structured services I was used to for so many years in the Episcopal Church, and I’ve learned many hymns I’ve never heard before, with lots of singing about the blood of Jesus. Episcopalians sing a zillion verses of every hymn and blood isn’t usually included. Sermons now are more teaching and less scholarly and theological. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed being here. The people are friendly, the choir is tight-knit with a wonderful director, and I haven’t heard any heretical teachings.

But it’s not home. Added to that, my worship church is also my work church, and I’m at the building six days a week at 8:00 a.m. – or I was until Covid-19 came and everything closed down. In practical ways, though, I’ve used that time to think and pray about what I want and need, and watched live-streamed services from Episcopal churches in Tyler and Boston. The familiar liturgy of Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist Rite II just settle my soul. I’ve been happier doing this from my living room than going to current worship church, which told me a lot.

So I’ve made the decision to separate Work Church and Worship Church. I need liturgical worship and I need to be able to worship without also being asked work questions or worrying that I hadn’t done something I was supposed to do with logistics. My pastor, who is also my boss, was very gracious and told me he was proud of me for knowing what I needed and taking steps to get it.

Finding a new church while they’re all returning to a new normal in a pandemic is a little weird. But I’m pretty sure I know which church will draw me and have worshiped there before now. It’s very contemporary in architecture, with words projected on walls instead of using prayerbooks and hymnals. And there isn’t a choir or even an organ, although there is definitely music. The liturgy is the same, though. And the people are friendly with a multi-ethnic and multi-generational congregation. I’m also impressed with how new Worship Church has managed plans and communications during Covid-shutdown time, which is when I really began looking there.

Baptist and Episcopal churches put their money in different places. Baptist churches, and my Work Church, strongly support evangelical missionaries around the world. Episcopal churches, at least the ones I’ve been associated with, focused more on social justice assistance and issues. Right now, especially, this feels where I am called to be.

I may not stay at new Worship Church forever, but making this change is something I need to do. Maybe when I leave the job at Work Church I will come back for worship. For now, I will have two churches for two purposes. God is present in both.

Liturgy Recharge

shieldSix days a week I report to the local church at 8am. Five of those days are for work; Sundays are for choir and worship, though often members of the congregation ask me work-related questions because, hey, I’m there and I have answers. But that doesn’t mean I like it.

I also really miss liturgical worship. For forty years I’ve been an active member of the Episcopal Church, from a college church to a cathedral to a very high church and a huge historic church in Boston. I’ve sung in choirs, run stewardship programs, studied the Bible and church history, served on vestries, visited the sick, polished brass on altar guilds, been part of small groups, organized libraries, cleaned up kitchens after parish suppers, and served on search committees.

But no matter where we were, our worship followed The Book of Common Prayer. My godmother wrote when I was confirmed many years ago that the BCP “is still a tremendous source of strength, its prayers for quiet confidence, for raising of children, for those we love, for those in mental darkness, have been invaluable to me and I have never been without comfort and support.” She was a woman of great faith with a solid core foundation that shone through her life and relationships. I learned from her that the prayers of the BCP, said automatically so many Sundays, provide the needed words when the heart is full or hurting, beyond words but wanting to cry out.

Most of my churches celebrated communion every Sunday, but the Order for Morning Prayer is also beautiful. I found comfort in the ritual of the liturgy, of an order of service with well-chosen words for celebrant and congregants, with responsive readings and a lectionary that led us through the Bible on a 3-year cycle. With structure and symbolism, kneeling and music. I’ve missed it.

So today I took a needed day off from my own church to recharge at a local Episcopal church. It was a more contemporary service than I was used to, but the words of the liturgy were the same and I found I had forgotten none of them. We celebrated Eucharist, with bread instead of wafers and wine instead of grape juice, gathering around the altar. And we were sent forth with these words, “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.”  I always liked being sent out to do the work of Christ.

Mostly, though, I could simply worship and not have to lead anything. I will not be leaving my current church but I will definitely be back. For I may not belong to an Episcopal church, but I am and will be an Episcopalian.

Crafting a Redesign

I just hit my 10-year anniversary with WordPress – yayyy me!  I remember that when this blog first started, they kept a running total on the login page of the number of blogs they powered. Mine was somewhere in the 330,000 level. Then it was one of many places to try. Now it’s pretty much the default, or at least that’s what I see when I peruse the web.

WindowRiverBut 10 years is a long time for a blog, even one that doesn’t get updated all that often anymore. I’ve been distracted by working with the website for my church, which is also done in WordPress. I hate the design, which was a customized template that just.does.not.work.for.me.  The colors and design are dated, blog posts go to some random page that’s not linked anywhere, the page doesn’t scale, and I can’t even figure out how to change the top picture!

So naturally I volunteered to become the church webmaster. I’ve been working with the current design to dump badly dated content and rearrange what’s there as best I can to make it work. As a newcomer to the community, there were things I tried to find on the site when I first got here but couldn’t find. Those are now much more accessible. But it still looks dorky.

I bought another domain to use for practicing and have been running around with my cell phone, taking pictures of the church and the windows for possible placement on a new design. Or, yanno, anywhere I can drop them. Today I’m writing up a proposal for the church board for one-time costs of funding a redesign as well as investigating places to host sermon podcasts and benefits to moving to a different hosting service. My brain is busy.

Happy WordPress-iversary Me!