Whenever the Community Gathers...

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The new Book of Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is full of good things. We have already featured its “Immigrant’s Creed” (in the ALL-Archive). Here is another fine extract, from its opening pages on “Common Words and Gestures”—the simple and excellent suggestion that the font of baptism should be open and filled with water whenever the community gathers, and the waters of baptism recalled each time.

Its Service of the Lord’s Day (Sunday service) has the presider pour water in the font to introduce confession of sin, and lift water out of the font to declare God’s forgiveness. Services of daily prayer begins each day with a thanksgiving for baptism, at the baptismal font (presumably for those praying in the church building) or a bowl of water (those at home). The daily prayers are different each day, and here is Thursday’s:

Eternal God, we give you thanks
that through the gift of our baptism
you call us to a new way of life
in the realm of your grace and peace.
By the power of your Holy Spirit,
let your will be done in our lives
and in this world that you love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(p. 887)

The Book of Common Worship (2018).

Below: the font of baptism, Pilgrim Theological College. (Photos: Stephen Burns.)



An hour in the garden of Eden?

image: book cover found in secondhand book store: Nick Earle,  What’s Wrong with the Church?  (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961).

image: book cover found in secondhand book store: Nick Earle, What’s Wrong with the Church? (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961).

LIKE EVERYONE else, I wish that the church’s community would be a remarkable sign of divine transformation.  I wish the liturgy was feminist heaven, the adult forums vibrant discussions of profound religious issues, the parish activities stunning aftershocks of the resurrection.  Perhaps it is not the perception of what Sunday morning is that keeps people away: it is the heartache over what it isn’t.  Indeed, some Sundays I experience such a wrench, desperate disappointment, sorrow to the marrow.  But again I think, ah yes, Trinitarian faith: if this God became incarnate in a first-century male and lives continuously in the human community, I ought not expect Sunday morning to be an hour in the garden of Eden.  If your God is incarnate, the garden might be more like Gethsemani.  The Christian enterprise is not getting yourself transported to heaven.  Rather, it is realizing that this unkempt community is the paradise that the Spirit of God is cultivating.  I do not always succeed in this realization, but each Sunday morning I try. 

—-Gail Ramshaw, Under the Tree of Life: The Religion of a Feminist Christian (New York: Continuum, 1999), pp. 93-4.