I love churches that hold a beautiful ‘prayed-in’ feeling – especially the older ones. Sometimes, I admit I love ‘the church’ a little less, with all its struggles and institutional foibles – those muddles and hurts and frustrations that come with real life in community.
But where I never waver is in my belief in the church as a community walking alongside one another in the journey of faith. For me it’s not so much our shared belief, but our shared praxis – choosing to live and serve and pray together. Especially praying the Eucharist, a pattern of prayer Jesus showed us. All these things bring me back to Christ and shape my identity as a Christian.
Worshipping together is vital to sustaining my faith, especially when I feel so conscious of other powerful forces trying to shape me in today’s world: individualism, consumerism, apathy.
Participating in the Eucharist with fellow pilgrims on the journey of faith is where I find “the means of grace and the hope of glory,”1 as one of our older prayers put it.
Common worship counters all those God-opposing forces, by opening me up to others and connecting me with them in Christ. Giving thanks and praise reminds me again and again that all I think I have and own is a gift, rather than something to be grasped. And worship in the body of Christ calls me to transform my life by offering me grace – over and over.
The Eucharist reminds me that Christian faith is about so much more than ‘my personal salvation’ – it calls me to serve the world beyond the church. And it offers me strength. When I’m feeling weak, others share their strength; when I have no words of my own to pray, the words of our common liturgy carry me.
So if we couldn’t gather, or if I had to worship alone, I would miss the sustaining power of the Eucharist the most.
But should I ever lose access to that gift, I would look for spiritual food in the daily office – that great stream of prayer that for centuries has fed the life of the church with rhythms deep and strong to guide our life of faith.
Our shared life as Christians has been so disrupted in these times, and this has made me realise how blessed I am every time I am able to take part in these ordinary yet extraordinary riches of worship.
The gifts of common prayer, in-person or online, carry us along and keep us together even in difficult times and lead us daily back to our hope in Christ.
1. A General Thanksgiving, found in Night Prayer ANZBP/HKMOA p.182 and in other prayerbooks from around the Anglican Communion.