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, never exposed to liturgical worship. My husband preemptively engages with the priest before our visit, prayerfully and assuredly guiding our family forward.
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, 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 rhythmic progression of the liturgy presses forward, calling for avid participation and movement.
The cross moves once again, the Gospel held in high honor. Crosses are traced along forehead, lips, and heart.
The priest delivers his sermon; however, not from the center of the stage, as I had always known, but offset to the side of the altar. There is an attunement resonating from this leader 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 eyes closed, reciting the liturgy with an effortlessness, years of tradition deeply rooted in memory. Far from rote memorization, his forehead wrinkling as he speaks the confession on his knees.
The parish begins to move forward, 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. I follow, 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.
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 witty personality. This, the care of souls.
It’s been almost four years since that season of unknowing, a new heart posture now ingrained. My husband will graduate from an Anglican seminary this summer. God willing, 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.
I stand and genuflect in acknowledgment and in honor of Christ just the same, 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. I watch my children dressed in white surplices 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.
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 Holy God, a foretaste so sweet.
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. Lisa is a graduate student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling field with a passion for integrating spirituality and trauma recovery. Cultivating the earth through gardening is an avid hobby and great joy.