Living in Liturgy: My Anglican Journey

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We first enter through the bright red doors of an Anglican church, a preteen and two teenagers in tow. Questions permeate my thoughts, how will our children endure this shift, especially at this stage of their spiritual development? Is this even the right choice for our family?

We have all grown up within the Church; however, we were never exposed to liturgical worship. My husband preemptively engages with the priest before our visit, prayerfully and assuredly guiding our family forward.

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First Taste of Liturgy

Entering the foyer (the narthex) of the parish, we are warmly greeted. We pass through an additional set of doors, a crimson red runner leading to an adorned altar.

The main sanctuary is drenched in silence.

There is no catching up from the week past, no persistent small talk. From the chaos of our drive and my own racing thoughts, this protected silence is kind and gracious hospitality. I inhale deeply, grateful for the quiet of a sacred space. Parishioners surround us, some kneeling, others sitting in quiet prayer. I hold onto the order of service in my lap, like a trustworthy compass.

The procession begins, and the quiet room fills with melody and reverent awe. Incense marches upward, illuminating the senses. I glance over at my children—wide-eyed—and we’ve only just begun. There is an attentiveness to the environment of worship: the flickering candles, images of Christ lining the parish walls, and the leaders seamlessly initiating the liturgy—all showing forth a desire to set this space apart from that of the world.

Movement and Rhythm

The liturgy quickly outpaces me as I scan to find my place in the pamphlet. However, instead of leaning into frustration, I place my trustworthy guide on the pew—to watch, to worship. The liturgy’s rhythmic progression presses forward, calling for avid participation and movement.

The cross moves once again, the Gospel held in high honor. Crosses are traced along the forehead, lips, and heart.

The priest delivers his sermon, but not from the center of the stage, as I had always known, but offset to the side of the altar. This leader’s attunement resonates as he speaks the Word, ever meeting the eyes of the worshippers before him.

My gaze later catches an older gentleman a few rows up. He kneels with his eyes closed, effortlessly reciting the liturgy, years of tradition deeply rooted in memory. Far from rote memorization, his forehead wrinkles as he speaks the confession on his knees.

Holy Communion

The parish begins to move forward, and two neat rows form. I turn to my husband, quickly regretting the choice to sit in the second pew. How do I hold my hands? What do I do? With a crooked smile, he stacks his right palm onto his left, demonstrating for our family.

It’s far too late to back out now. I watch the woman ahead of me drop one knee gracefully to the ground—a worshipful bow before approaching the altar. Following her lead, I find the reverence surprisingly befitting, even comfortable, despite so much unknowing.

I take and eat, not with an individual portion of juice and wafer tucked neatly under a plastic film, as I had always known. Instead, kneeling shoulder to shoulder with another, hands outstretched. The priest stands directly in front of me, individually providing me with “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven.” I watch my children drink from the cup—the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation. I walk to our pew, bitter wine still on my lips.

Journeying Onward

Again and again, I fumble in awkwardness and unfamiliarity as I return to the liturgy to worship. Yet, I come. Our priest walks alongside our family as only an attentive shepherd would. He spends the next months, pulling up a chair next to our children, to us—eager to answer questions and disciple. We learn about the historic nature of the Anglican Church and the piety we’ve seen represented. He engages with full presence and a witty personality. This is the care of souls.

Seminary

It’s been almost four years since that season of unknowing, and a new heart posture is now ingrained. God willing, my husband will graduate from an Anglican seminary this summer, bound for the priesthood.

Every morning on this seminary campus, tucked in the woods, bells ring to usher the seminarians into worship. The ornate chapel is filled with voices proclaiming the Word of God. I hear the psalms seemingly anew, rising and falling by the rhythm of familiar voices, uniting into one. The organ all the while proclaiming the greatness of God, voices declaring in harmonious praise.

Standing and genuflecting in acknowledgment and in honor of Christ just the same, I am far more humbled by the journey here. I still kneel shoulder to shoulder with another, this time surrounded by the next leaders of our church. My children, dressed in white surplices, now carry torches while standing alongside the Gospel, where I pray they always remain. I still hear them breathe in deeply as the thurifer fills the room with incense dancing upward. Seminary students begin to deliver daily sermons, escalating in confidence and clarity as graduation draws near.

Liturgy, Indwelled

With perseverance and patience, liturgy has seeped into every part of my life. I find resounding rest in the consistency of Anglican worship. I seek the protected silence of the chapel and its worship, a steadfast refuge. No matter what I may be feeling, I pray alongside a legion of others on Sunday morning and each time I open my Prayer Book, to seek the repetition and guidance therein. I come and taste with knowing surrender, with wonder and awe—overwhelmed once again in the adoration of the Holy God, a foretaste so sweet.


Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash.

Published on

January 30, 2020

Author

Lisa Syner

Lisa Syner is a member of St. Michael’s Anglican Church in Delafield, Wisconsin. She lives amidst the beauty and bustle of Nashotah House Theological Seminary with her husband, Cliff, and children, Michael, Christian, and Caelynn.

View more from Lisa Syner

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