Last Sunday evening we sang Evensong at Shillingstone church. It was both an unremarkable and a wonderful event. Unremarkable in that Evensong has been sung in this parish church for centuries; wonderful in that although only a few of us were gathered we had a choir, an anthem, a splendid organ voluntary, and most importantly a strong sense of a community at peace with one another and loving one another. Never mind mindfulness, self-help manuals and online life fixes, this simple service of hymns, Scripture readings, prayers and teaching surely must the best antidote to life stresses and strains out there.
This is not to say it is merely a comfort blanket – far from it. Our worship never seeks to hide its face from the ugly realities of what people can do to themselves, their world and their relationships. But entering into quiet prayer, into centuries old tried and tested liturgy, into a community worship time where the focus comes off us and turns to God is a powerful and profound experience.
Every time we gather together in any one of our benefice churches I am reminded again of the privilege of being able to worship freely, and to be in community not just with those others in the pew, but with a world-wide community of faith. When in our village churches which have been around since the 13thcentury at least I also think of the community of faith that has gone before us, as our prayers mingle with the memory of their prayers in that space.
May we treasure our worship together as the gift of God that it is.