I spend my corporate worship time as an officiant and celebrant. I dislike the modern use of the word “president” or “presider”, which to my mind makes worship sound like a committee meeting. At any rate, one of the enjoyable parts of my visits to Nashotah House, an Episcopal seminary in Wisconsin, is that I may submerge myself into the daily round of Mattins, Mass and Evensong as a participant, without having the distraction of always being one step ahead of the congregation in order to read my part. Once in a while I am able to enter into the flow of worship and lose myself in the church’s offering to God.
Mind you, they do worship well here. The singing is wonderful. There’s a mixture of Anglican chant and plainsong, and a judicious use of the Hymnal. Ceremonial is done well, without that conscious fussiness that one finds in some Anglo Catholic worship or ironically in the type of worship which seeks to emulate popular staged music, although I’ve discovered that much of what is termed contemporary in church music and worship is at least a generation behind, if not firmly embedded in the Sixties.
The chapel at Nashotah, quite naturally, is Victorian gothic, with some nods to the liturgical movement’s alterations ushered into use with the 1979 BCP. One senses that the chapel is a place hallowed by prayer and devotion, inhabited by the shades of hundreds of students and staff, most of whom now worship with us from the Church in eternity. Being surrounded by this cloud of witnesses is something of which one is aware. Their devotion and service to the church in their generations inspires those of us who pray and contemplate, sing and praise at this moment in the twenty-first century.
I’ve mentioned before that the current divisions and controversies of today evaporate here in rural Wisconsin. Side by side worship Episcopalians and separated Anglicans. Their unison is not the fruit of compromise. Rather it is established by common worship, common study, common devotion to our Lord, the Gospel and the Catholic Church. It is good and heartening to be here, even for a short three days.
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