Tonight I experienced a beautiful liturgy that was Both/And.
The Confirmation of four youth, Reception of several adults, and the blessing of a First Communion, was both traditional and truly contemporary.
It was both formal and comfortable.
It was both reverent and playful.
The congregation was both young and old.
The choir consisted of both robed empty-nesters and young adults with electric guitars.
The congregation was both family and friends.
The congregation was both Episcopalians and guests of other and non-church traditions.
The liturgy was both solemn, sacred, and celebratory; truly joyful.
As I witnessed my fairy god-daughter accepting the responsibility for her choice to be a Christian, I was struck with the thought that she is the seventh generation on her father’s side to receive sacraments in front of that altar. One of her very great grandfathers gave the land for the cemetery, a cemetery that was the first in this little frontier river town in the 1850’s to allow burial of both Native American Indians and people of African origin. Her great-grandfather and her grand uncles used to carve their initials and names in the bricks building the bell tower when they were waiting around in their acolyte robes waiting for things to get interesting. Now she’s an acolyte, because our tradition embraces both males and females in leadership roles. (And she better know better than to carve on the bricks! Besides, her last name is already engraved there for eternity, thanks to Vernon and Caleb!)
The Rt. Rev. Brian Prior, IX Bishop of Minnesota, fit right in with this faithful congregation. He offered reflections in his sermon both about our heritage as Episcopalians in Minnesota and our call to go forth and be missioners in the world. He helped both those who prefer a solemn high mass, and those who prefer a praise service, feel comfortable as we participated in the ancient rite of claiming our Baptism. He both called us to be silent and give the Holy Spirit room to work, and he encouraged us to laugh when funny things happened, planned or not.
It occurred to me, as I participated and prayed in my beloved home church, that it has been this rich congregation that has both formed and continues to form me as a Christian. I am full of prayers of gratitude because it has always been a place of both/and. I crave that balance and I think it is a key to succesful equipping for evangelism. I was welcomed as the stranger when I wandered in the doors of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Hastings, Minnesota, in 1988. I served there for 14 years as the youth minister with partners in ministry who were both young and old, both high church and low church, both traditionalists and progressives, both founding families, like my young friend Dani who was confirmed tonight, and newcomers to the church and the Episcopal tradition, like my friend Rachel who was received tonight.
Thank you, St. Luke’s, for being a faithful place that continues to bridge generation gaps as you continue to invite, baptize, and nurture new Christians. And thank you, Bishop Brian, for teaching your flock of faithful Minnesotans as you both preach and celebrate. Those four young people will never forget getting to hold the crozier, nor will they forget that it was you who grasped their hands to lead them out into the world to embrace their call in Christ. And those of us who witnessed their proclamation and promise, renewing our own vows as Christians, will not soon forget such a delightful liturgy either. It takes all of us to be the Body of Christ in the world. Thanks be to God!
– Bronwyn Clark Skov, Officer for Youth Ministries of The Episcopal Church