VOLUME 2, NUMBER 37, AUGUST 7, 2011
Symbols of Ministry
One of the results of the Oxford Movement of the nineteenth century (and the various Anglo-Catholic movements that followed it) was a renewed sense of the Holy Eucharist (the Mass) as central to the life and worship of Christians. And this renewed sense of the centrality of the Eucharist wasn't just for Anglo-Catholic parishes. Over time it became the norm for the whole Episcopal Church.
The shift in emphasis can be seen by comparing Episcopal Church buildings built before the mid-nineteenth century and those built after. In pre-Anglo-Catholic buildings, the pulpit (sometimes with a lectern at a lower level) occupied the most prominent place in the nave or chancel and the "communion table" was often a small table at the base of the pulpit. But increasingly, after the advent of Anglo-Catholicism, the altar became larger and was moved to the center of the chancel, becoming a more prominent symbol, the central symbol, of the church building, as befitting the place on which Calvary is made present in our midst.
The Holy Eucharist became central (in conjunction with the preaching of the Word) and this was embodied, in part, in the change in architecture of church buildings. What might not be obvious, however, was that a corresponding change in the perception of the role of the "Minister" came with it. These days a person ordained to the "presbyterate" in the Episcopal Church is usually called a priest. But before the return of the Eucharist to the center of our worship lives, that same person was more usually called a Minister. This has everything to do with a return of the sense of the Mass as not only meal, but also re-presentation of the once and for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Sacrifices and priests go together.
But we are in the middle of a change no less important than the recovery of the Holy Eucharist and that is the recovery of a fuller understanding of the sacrament of Holy Baptism and all that goes with it.
The current Book of Common Prayer recovers not only the Holy Eucharist at the center of our worship, but also Holy Baptism as the foundation for all ministry. In Holy Baptism pagans go into the water, die with Christ and then, coming out of the water, are raised to new life in him. In this Sacrament we are made one with Christ and with his Body, the Church. And with this new reality comes a new way of life and also, like with the renewal of the Eucharist, a renewed understanding of ministry.
Since Holy Baptism joins us to the death and life of Christ and makes us members of Christ's Body, his mission and ministry becomes our mission and ministry. This is why, among the promises in the Baptismal Covenant, all of the baptized (not just the ordained) promise to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. (BCP 305)
Likewise, the Catechism in the Prayer Book says that the Church carries out her mission through all her members, that the ministers of the Church are not only bishops, priests and deacons, but also lay persons—again, all of the baptized. If there were more space here I could go into detail about how the idea of the Church as mission and the ministry of the baptized is emphasized (with few exceptions) throughout the Prayer Book, but in this limited space I'd like to make a more basic point about architecture and furniture.
If we take the ministry of all of the baptized as seriously as we take the ministry of the ordained, the font will be as important and prominent a symbol as the altar. It will not be a small piece of furniture brought out on occasion and then returned to a baptistery or an insignificant corner in the Church. It will be substantial, visible, interesting , beautiful, accessible and as well cared for and decorated as the altar. All of that will be possible with this new font.
Thank you, Jack and Cindy, for making that possible.
MASS ON THE GRASS... Next Sunday, August 14 we will take our faith and worship outside of the four walls of Grace Church as a public witness to the community of our life and presence by celebrating Mass on the Grass at 10AM. This celebration will be one way that Grace Church will address the growing sense that our parish (and the wider Church) needs to make herself known to the community in which we live, worship and minister. After Mass we will enjoy a modest picnic of sorts and the Christian Formation Committee will explain their plans and begin to recruit for the first Messy Church event this fall.
BASEBALL OUTING... On Saturday, August 20th, Grace Church will enjoy a night out to watch the New Jersey Jackals play the Rockland Boulders at the Provident Bank Stadium in Pomoma, NY. Meet at the stadium and buy your own tickets, game time is 7:05 PM. For more information, speak with Jim Cloke.
FOOD FOR FRIENDS... Summer means that school is out. The kids may like this but parents who cannot make ends meet and who must depend on school breakfasts and lunches for their children's nutrition are pinched harder than ever. We may expect then an increase in the number of parents who must turn to places like St. Paul's Community Development Corporation Food Pantry, which receives our Food for Friends donations. St. Paul's especially welcomes high protein items, such as beans and canned meats. Otherwise, their wish list asks specifically for tuna, cereal, peanut butter, rice, coffee, and pasta. Alternatively checks may be drawn in favor of St. Paul's Community Development Corporation and marked Food Pantry. Please send checks directly to St. Paul's at 451 Van Houten Street, Paterson, NJ 07501. Thank you.
WANTED... Large wooden table that will seat 12 to 14 people comfortably for a newly planned conference room. Please speak with Chris Scott for more information confirming your donation.
Ministers of the Assembly
9 Harrington Avenue, Westwood, NJ 07675
Telephone: +1 (201) 664-0407 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
new: © Copyright Grace Episcopal Church