Last week I mentioned an update on our web page, which makes a provision for people to put in a request for prayer. We had our first response, which was not a request, but welcome praise. ‘Wow! This can be one of the most useful blogs we have ever seen on this subject. Basically excellent. I am a specialist in topic this I can understand your hard work’. I had the idea but thanks to Marion for working out on how to do this.
Our next step is to set up a ‘Join us in Daily Prayer’. This makes a link to the Church of England, which has a provision to say either Morning, Evening or Night Prayers according to the traditional language of the Book of Common Prayer, and in the contemporary language of the new prayer books. There is no need to look up Bible readings or the appointed psalms it is all laid out. All you do is click on the date and away you go.
Another provision will be a link to an Irish site called Sacred Space, which offers a daily form of contemplation. It offers a series of prayers, readings and opportunities to reflect on one’s life. It is intended to be used in a slow, reflective way.
There will be another link to the Anglican Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham, which introduces the Shrine as well as their latest news, and an excellent bookshop, which I use a lot.
These additions to our web page are not just for our congregation, but an offering, service and teaching to the wider community. Many may feel cautious about coming to church, but our webpage can enter their homes and encourage them to come and seek further.
Marion will certainly have a work cut out setting these up and I appreciated what she is doing.
Last week, I mentioned the attractiveness of holiness, which is made visible in the way we care for and maintain our church, and I mentioned, When someone walks into our church they see far more than candles, wood and statues, they sense that this is a holy place of worship, that this is the ‘House of God; the Gate of Heaven’ Now there is something else we do, which is different from the ordinary world we live in; it is the language of worship. Our form of speech in worship is the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible, all from England of the 16th Century.
Every religion has wondered about the appropriate way of speaking to the Almighty. Hindus and Buddhists use the 2,200-year-old Sanskrit. Jews still use Hebrew (modern Hebrew is a revival by the State of Israel). The Catholic Church still uses Latin but permits local languages. The Orthodox use Byzantine Greek and Slavonic). The difficulty with this is that the form of language for worship is not readily understandable. Of course, in England Latin was used up until the Reformation and it fell to Archbishop Cranmer to devise an English liturgical language. He could do this because of his outstanding skills as a translator and in expressing it into the language of public speaking of the day – so he had sense of how it sounds when said aloud. So, his English was understandable by ordinary people but it was not the same as ordinary conversation. The same was true of the translators of the King James Bible (The Authorised Version) of 1611. They deliberately used a form of English of 1500. Again, it was understandable but different. When these scholars presented their translation, they did not submit documents but read them out aloud; how it sounded was all important. Like Cranmer they were trained as orators. So, a beautiful language of metre, rhythm, poetry and phrasing was created. Though different it was heard, understood, valued and remembered.
The beauty of worship is not just furnishings, but something that is heard. Unfortunately, this abandoned in the 1970s, with the new prayer books and so there are many who have lost contact with this beautiful language. Years ago, I stayed at a Russian Monastery in Essex. Their founder, Father Sophroney, decided to translate the Slavonic liturgy into English. He chose the language of our Book of Common Prayer, why? ‘Because it is a language of worship’. Of course!
‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, bow down before him, his glory proclaim; with gold of obedience and incense of lowliness, kneel and adore him the Lord is his name.’
So runs the hymn for the Feast of Epiphany, remembering the visit of the Three Wise Men to the Child Jesus. It was not that long ago you could go to most Anglican churches and pick up a sense of beauty of holiness. The furnishings, the music, the order of worship and the way it was offered, with a sense of dignity and adoration – however, can no longer take that for granted.
Here at Morningside, we still maintain that Anglican tradition. The recent adjustments and tidying-up to the furnishings is to make that stand out more clearly. The point of it all is that when someone walks into our church they see far more than candles, wood and statues, they sense that this is a holy place of worship, as I mention on the first page, that this is the ‘House of God; the Gate of Heaven’ (Jacob in Genesis 28:17).
In Jacob’s dream, he sees a ladder set up between earth and heaven with angels ascending and descending, and in a sense the Church’s symbolism in ordered and dignified worship, vestments, incense and crafted images and sacred vessels, and flickering candles tries to expresses that image. When we put this all together we are offering an image beyond the everyday things of a world – an alternate vision – and for those searching, our little church that can be the door that opens to House of God; the Gate of Heaven the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, we have no reason to apologise for the way we conduct our traditional forms of worship. Indeed, Bishop Alison, when she visited us last, encouraged the Parish Council to keep to these values as it was important for the whole Diocese. This does not mean we remain conservative, static and immovable but seek ways to renew and change when it makes our tradition stand out more clearly.