Dear Family and Friends of St. Augustine,
It’s my prayer that this letter finds you safe, well-stocked, and comfortable. These last weeks’ unprecedented developments have brought us to a place that feels bewildering — like we’re strangers in a strange land -- even though we’re amongst the most familiar surroundings.
In talking and praying with many of you, I’ve found comfort in the fact that we are truly all in this together — and that our hearts and minds are constantly drawn together in the Spirit.
I’ve recently been thinking about our worship services during Holy Week and Easter. Of necessity, we won’t be able to walk through these days in our customary ways, or to experience specific rites that are precious and meaningful to us. However, new approaches to worship during these Holy days can bring new meaning to us.
I’d like to offer the following suggestions so that attendance at our “virtual” worship in the days ahead so that you can participate, rather than simply observe the services:
First, if you can, prepare a personal space for reverence. Our lives are incredibly compressed right now; in whatever way and to whatever extent it’s possible, I’d recommend determining where you’re likely to worship at home this week and making that place a little more holy. I wholeheartedly believe — and our scriptures bear out — that worship should be physical and sensory as well as intellectual and spiritual.
Make sure your seat is clear and comfortable. If it’s your custom to kneel during confession or prayer, have a pillow handy and space to take on that posture.
Place a candle or two in view and light them before services. Set a favorite icon or cross nearby. And don’t forget your nose — if you have incense, flowers, or herbs at the ready, incorporate them into your worship space, as well.
Special measures for special services: I encourage you to engage in the following particular ways to prepare for this year’s services:
Palm/Passion Sunday - If you are able, collect some sign of life, hope, growth, or renewal from your home or neighborhood this week: a flower blossom; a small branch from a tree; a leaf or sprig or frond from a houseplant. These will be the branches we raise for a blessing, and to celebrate the triumph of life in Christ, our ever-present hope. On the glorious day when we are able to reunite physically at St. Augustine’s, you will each be able to receive one of the palm fronds we are blessing on Palm Sunday.
Maundy Thursday – Our service will include the “Tasting of the Passover Foods” as part of the sermon. If you are able to assemble the following items, you can experience, as well as observe, this special tradition: a piece of matza bread, a hard-boiled egg, horseradish sauce, a bowl of salt water, a sprig of parsley or celery, a tablespoon or two of chunky applesauce, a piece of gyro meat (lamb), and a glass of red wine or grape juice.
Our Maundy Thursday service also customarily includes the rite of foot-washing, reminding us of Jesus’ lessons of holiness of humility, vulnerability and service. Because we will not be able to participate in this practice, I invite you to attend this service bare-footed.
The Feast of the Resurrection: Easter Day - It has been said that worship at SAC, can be boisterous at times. Continuing in the spirit and vein of that worthy compliment, I would encourage you find any bells, instruments, or noise-makers that you might have around your house, and play them joyfully on Easter, whenever you hear the word “Alleluia” said or sung in our worship.
Those of us who will serve at the church next week through recording and/or live broadcast will be keenly aware of your physical absence. However, we are uplifted by the sure knowledge that the same God who bridged the distance between heaven and earth “draws like cords around our hearts.”
Until we meet next, in “virtual” worship or in person, know that you are loved — by me, and all of St. Augustine’s clergy, Vestry, and staff -- and by the God who is our help at all times and in all circumstances.
Blessings to you and yours,