Worship is so physical. In ordinary times, we gather at Sanctuary: a gentle, colourful, comfortable space. We greet one another with a hug, a clap on the back, a touch on the arm; we choose our favourite chair or sprawl on our favourite rug. We look at the paintings on the wall and wonder what they mean; we see the story box come out and wait with anticipation as the lid slowly opens. We sing, listening as we find the point of harmony, separate voices melding into a beautiful whole. We move to the prayer stations and light candles, push twigs into sand, or plant teaspoons as we pray. We stand around the communion table, anticipating the touch, taste and smell of fresh warm bread and sweet red wine. And how much more physical things get during Holy Week, when we would usually kneel to wash one another’s feet on Thursday; crowd into a small dark room on Friday; and gather around a eucalyptus-scented campfire on Sunday in the cold light of dawn.
Ours is a material faith and so our worship is also material, for the most part enacted by real bodies in physical spaces with everyday things. Bread, wine and water; kitchen chairs and dining tables; household lamps and ordinary candles; birdsong at dawn. Yet in the current crisis, when physical gatherings are banned, we simply cannot have this level of embodied engagement as a group. We cannot gather online to wash feet, or physically evoke a dark and oppressive upstairs room, or poke sticks into a campfire and enjoy “breakfast on the beach” with the Risen Christ, together.
For some of us, this lack of embodiment is sad but okay; for others, the embodiment is everything. And so this Holy Week, for some of us the important thing will be to gather with others even at the cost of embodiment; for others, gathering will feel less important than re-membering the stories in embodied ways. Therefore, we are giving you options.
Option 1: If gathering with others is your priority, then please join us via Zoom using the usual link for worship. On Thursday at 8pm, we will reflect using the tools of lectio divina; on Friday, also at 8pm, we will hear the Passion narrative interspersed with silence and recorded chants; on Sunday at 6.15am, we will share the confusion, hesitation and wonderment of that first dawn. These Zoom services will very simple and unadorned, reflecting the bleakness of the texts and the times we are in.
Option 2: If your priority is re-membering the stories in embodied ways, then know that each of the services has been emailed to you separately. You can do the services within your household, either in toto or adapted as appropriate. On Thursday you can wash each others’ feet; on Friday, dig out candles, hear the stories, and chant as you descend into darkness; on Sunday, make a campfire and wonder with your household what the empty tomb might mean.
Each option has benefits, each has losses; but either way, we can all be worshipping at home, united by the stories, the prayers, and the power of the Holy Spirit. For, whenever we gather in the name of Christ, whether at Sanctuary, at home, or online, we are united with the faithful of every time and place: and this year, despite its strangeness, is no exception.
PS – Don’t forget, our Lent series continues, with a new post going up each day on the website!
Emailed to Sanctuary, 8 April 2020 © Alison Sampson, 2020. Image credit: nrd on Unsplash.
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