The Work of the People

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” ~ Psalm 96:9

My dear Friends in Christ,

As I am slowly settling into life in Pennsylvania and our community at St. David’s, I am finding new spaces to commune with the Divine. I have found God in the green canopy of the Wissahickon, in the subtle song of a creek at Skunk Hallow, and in dinners shared in the arboretum on our own church campus.

Throughout my faith journey, the two places where it feels easiest for me to experience our God are in creation, in the beauty of the natural world, and in the beauty of our worship. I LOVE worship. So it is no wonder that my own calling to ordained ministry happened in the midst of an evening Eucharist, with the doors of St. Francis chapel at Camp McDowell swung wide open to the humid, Alabama summer air, while cicadas sang their own tune in harmony with campers’ songs of praise.

Growing up in the Episcopal Church, our worship has shaped me, molded me, even recreated me. It has worked on me in so many good ways. That is what our liturgy is intended to do. For the word, “liturgy,” in its original Greek actually means, “the work of the people.” Our worship of God is our work, a symbol of our laboring together to grow in love of God and love of our neighbor. Our liturgy works on us and within us and through us, changing us as individuals and as a community so that not only can we ourselves know God in Jesus Christ, but then we can also make Christ known to others.

Therefore our worship has evolved over time, as we have done the work of growing together in community. Our beloved Body of Christ has worshiped in many languages over the course of the last two millennium, has sung many different hymns and chants and spirituals, has explored diverse imagery for God with the writing of new Eucharistic prayers. I personally love the cosmic imagery we find for the Divine in Eucharistic Prayer C, “At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses…” Even our current Episcopal Church worships across eighteen different countries with our Book of Common Prayer printed in three different languages. A little piece of trivia: the largest diocese in the Episcopal Church is actually the Diocese of Haiti, where they predominantly worship in French Creole!

This fall you may hear a new Sanctus, a new Holy, Holy, Holy, that we sing during the Eucharistic prayer. It is a beautiful, contemplative song from the depths of the soul that has found its way into our tradition from Argentina. We will sing it both in English and its original Spanish. In this way we will honor our annual theme: “A Community of Love,” and name that this community expands past the walls of St. David’s, for our Latiné siblings represent the largest growing demographic in the Episcopal Church. We may even resurrect some Enriching our Worship, the approved liturgical supplement to the Book of Common Prayer, which possesses beautiful, expansive, poetic language. We will do so to help us navigate the current liturgical revisions that are happening within the wider church.

Our worship, like our Jesus, is both comfort and challenge. Its familiar rhythm is a grounding for not only our weeks, but our entire lives. When we work within the parameters of that rhythm, there is still so much space for exploration and drawing the circle one step wider. Yet newness can also be challenging. I promise that if we lean into it together, if we do the work together, we will be changed for the better.

God’s peace and love,

The Rev. Sarah A. Dunn
Associate Rector