Shalom No. 2

This summer we took a hard look at our life and decided to make some adjustments so we’d have the space to rest and reconnect after Aaron’s long absence. (Read a little more about those adjustments here.) One of our priorities was rest, which involved a change in our spirituality.

Aaron and I have long discussed our own understandings of theology and what that might look like in our home and our community. (One of the most interesting conversations we had happened a few days into married life when we discovered we had opposite views on child dedication vs. baptism. It was not the most inspiring conversation, I’ll tell you that much. At one point I even swore I would never become Anglican.) After a year in seminary and additional conversations in regards to communion, baptism, music, liturgy, doctrine, social justice, ordination — we’ve finally reached some common ground.

An example of how stained glass windows in a church can tell the Story of Christ. 

That being said, we’ve found immense value in the Anglican tradition. Aaron’s been Anglican for a number of years, so the transition was made that much easier. A liturgical tradition (or denomination) is very different than either of us grew up with, but throughout college and further study we grew to love the new elements of worship. There are several types of liturgical traditions and a few different styles of Anglican worship. Our church is associated with Anglican Church in North America. Charismatic or more reserved, conservative or liberal, contemporary or traditional — there’s room for anyone.

One of the most significant themes that drew me to this decision was the emphasis on our small space in a much larger Story. The rhythm of the church calendar, the centrality of the eucharist, the hymns (and contemporary music!), the weekly teachings, and the missional outreach of the tradition invited us into take part in an ancient narrative.

“Participating in the liturgy of the worldwide Christian community, whether on a Sunday morning or at another time, is more than attending a service or a prayer meeting. It is about entering a story. It is about orienting our lives around what God has been doing throughout history. And it is about being sent forth into the world to help write the next chapter of that story.” — Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

I was hesitant to embrace liturgy at first because it appeared to be repetitive and stale. But it made sense as I thought of the daily rhythms we engage in: making meals, greeting each other after a long day, or the way we get dressed in the morning. These things happen every day, but they are life-giving times that vary in expression all the time. They provide needed structure and help us remember the faithfulness of our Provider, to love those around us, and to care for ourselves. These are not stale or powerless activities, but the very life we live and breathe, activities that hold immense meaning. The repetitive nature is very helpful since humans so easily forget the Story they’re apart of.

Speaking the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed, passing the peace, confessing corporate and personal sin, and receiving the eucharist each week is new to me, but it’s beautiful. We’ve most often attended a contemporary Anglican service, but the traditional service that includes a choir, bells, and incense is incredible to be a part of. Each portion of either service invites participation with all senses.

“The incarnation and resurrection of Jesus show us that God takes our physical selves very seriously. We are spiritual beings, but we are also soul and body…In liturgical worship, you have many opportunities to use your body. You’ll get to use your mouth, lungs, and voice…All the senses are involved in worship because God designed us to experience the world in all of these ways.” — Thomas McKenzie, The Anglican Way

We recognize our time and space to worship is important outside the church walls too. Worship takes many forms. Sabbath is one example of this. We’ve consistently kept Sunday as a Sabbath for the past few months, meaning there’s no school work or side jobs on the agenda. The morning is spent at church and our afternoon and evening is open to take a walk, sit in a coffee shop, read a book, watch a movie, sleep, etc. We spend time with each other, often times with friends. We prioritize this time because we have experienced the burnout that comes without rest.

“What is the Sabbath? Spirit in the form of time. With out bodies we belong to space; our spirit, our souls, soar to eternity, aspire to the holy. The Sabbath is an ascent to the summit. It gives us the opportunity to sanctify time, to raise the good to the level of the holy, to behold the holy by abstaining from profanity.” — Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

Heschel taught from a Jewish perspective, but his thoughts on the Sabbath are still relevant to us as Christians. In his book, The Sabbath, he eloquently explains the meaning and purpose of the seventh day. (He articulates it much better than I could do here, so I encourage you to pick up a copy.) Just as our church services seek to connect us to a larger Story through a type of Christian liturgy, the Sabbath is the piece of this story embodied in our physical, emotional, spiritual activity and calendar rhythms.

For this season, Anglicanism suits us well! We have been really encouraged. It’s brought a certain clarity we didn’t quite have before. Our schedules are just as full, but we know our efforts on the first six days are more likely to be sustainable when we choose to consistently engage in the Sabbath (and associated liturgy) with each part of who we are.

Do you keep a day for Sabbath or rest?

Books mentioned in this post (and couple bonus reads!):

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