“You have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them...”
“A Prayer of St. Chrysostom”, Book of Common Prayer, page 102
Over the last year and a half, Heavenly Rest has experimented with a variety of innovations in its worship life. There were some new experiences that we were eager to discharge as soon as possible (requiring people to register for church attendance comes to mind), and others that felt like they had more staying power (showcasing our many talented musicians with more frequency has been an incredible gift and opportunity). One innovation that has been surprisingly meaningful is our 9:00 service of Morning Worship on the Courtyard. Originally designed with the simple intention of providing space for people to worship together in relative safety during the height of the pandemic, Morning Worship quickly developed an identity and power all its own.
Highlights of this service have included seeing children color with sidewalk chalk during the homily, having passers by stop to sing with us as they walked their dogs, and hearing the birds sing as we recited the words of Psalm 19: “the heavens declare the glory of God”. A service that was designed out of necessity, in other words, became a powerful worship experience for all who participated.
At the same time, there have been many conversations about the future of the 9:00 service. As meaningful as it has been, it happens to coincide with the traditional Christian Formation hour at Heavenly Rest. As we have prepared for a more “normal” autumn, we have been faced with a dilemma: do we rearrange the Sunday morning schedule completely, or do we let the 9:00 service come to an end? For a number of reasons, including waning interest in the service, we have, with mixed emotions, chosen the latter option. The final 9:00 service took place on Sunday, August 8.
It’s hard to stress how grateful we have been for this service. It allowed us to gather in person for worship at a time when public health experts warned that it was unsafe to do so indoors. Moreover, the 9:00 service helped us discover the beauty and versatility of our Courtyard. We are still planning to have occasional worship services in the Courtyard (including Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve), and we never would have conceived of that possibility if it hadn’t been for this service of Morning Worship. Perhaps most importantly, Morning Worship allowed us to internalize the truth articulated in the Prayer of St. Chrysostom: that gathering in the presence of God simply requires the presence of the faithful.
As we reflect on what this service has meant to us, we want to thank everybody who has attended a worship service in the Courtyard over the last eighteen months, especially those who braved bitter temperatures in the dead of winter! You helped us to be the Church in a new and meaningful way, and we will be forever grateful.