Saturday, May 16, 2015

Prayer and Family Worship- Episcopalian Style

In many ways, our family worship has remained the same since joining the Episcopal Church.  We still read our scriptures daily- when we can manage it.  We still pray daily, including over our food.  We still go to church as a family every week, although only for two hours (if you include hanging out for socializing afterwards) instead of three.  But we now enrich our family worship traditions with some of the ritual forms of worship found in the Book of Common Prayer.

The Book of Common Prayer is the guiding tradition of ritual worship in the Episcopal Church, guiding how worship is performed at church and at home, through the week, and through the year.  There are traditional schedules for reading the bible, traditional worship services for different times of day adapted for daily and church life from the English monastic traditions, and an entire church calender that focuses worship on different parts of Christ's life through different parts of the year.  Community and individual prayer are an intense part of the worship tradition in the Episcopal Church, so much so that we were taken somewhat aback when asked by a family member if we still prayed.

Ritual worship is something that I grew up disrespecting as an inauthentic way to reach God, despite the many formal and informal ritual worship phrases and ceremonies in the LDS tradition.  But praying with an intent to be always spontaneous and conversational failed to work for my own personal worship the way it used to.  When I stopped believing in the LDS church, I didn't feel like I knew who I was talking to when I prayed anymore.  All the answers I knew from growing up were ones I was now willing to throw out because just because a general authority or LDS Sunday School teacher told me so was no longer a good enough reason to believe anything anymore.  One advantage of ritual worship is that it allows you to directly join an inclusive community of worship even if you aren't sure of your own path to worship alone anymore.  It's helped me refind my voice as I've tried to redecide who I thought God was.

We've started to include using elements of these traditions in our family worship as well.  Our kids seem to really love rituals and routines.  Heaven forbid we change the order of events in which bedtime is done.  But, they appear to enjoy us adding pieces in, and join in with their own exuberance.  A few quotes give some of the flavor of how bedtime prayer (with elements of the Compline ritual) can go in our house these days:

Mom “Give us this day our (Yawn)
Mom “Yes that’s right L, daily bread”
L: “GIVE US OUR REFRIGERATORS!!!” (laughs hysterically)

Mom: “It’s time for bed”
L: “THANKS BE TO GOD!!!” (repeated over, and over, and over)
("Thanks Be to God" is the ritual closing phrase at church, so L innovated on the normal routine to declare that worship was done.)

Mom: “Let’s all cuddle and sing a calming down song” (proceeds to sing gospel hymn from church because its the only calm song coming to mind)
T: “We sing that calming down song at church!”
— Later upon tucking into bed T sings the gospel hymn to himself

Mom: (recites Lord’s Prayer)
T: "Do you need the book now so you can read the "Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.” with the Allelulia’s at the end?"
(How T memorized that when its unclear how much he pays attention normally is a mystery to us.)

Although prayers for refrigerators from a two year old might cause some hilarious distraction, the rituals of the Episcopal Church form a structure of worship through the day, week, and year that is rich, beautiful, and Christ centered.

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