Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Vigil

Tonight I was simply a member of the congregation at the Easter Vigil joint service of the 4 congregations that meet each week at Immanuel Lutheran Church. It took me a while to focus. I think I was still kind of in the space I was in after the Good Friday service. Whatever it was things felt a little flat as we began, the blessing of the fire and the lighting of the Paschal candle and the singing "the light of Christ" with response "Thanks be to God." was flat, it did not impact me much. A motion we went through. Which was odd since usually this is one of those places in the Christian liturgy where I find a real connection with the primordial. As we entered the parish hall set up for the story of salvation portion of the vigil, I felt distracted, not by anything in particular but still found it difficult to take in or focus on the liturgy. Finally about half way through the exultet as most of the hand held candles were finally lit I began to awaken to the beauty of the service and the chant sung alternately by two cantors. As the first readings were read I still had trouble focusing but the readings, the singing of the psalms and the prayers slowly did their work and the joy of this night slowly dawned on me. The joy of the Gospel acclamation and then eventually the "Christ is Risen", "He is Risen indeed" was deeper somehow than often in the past but also of a different quality in myself.

None of this that I experienced interestingly enough had much to do with how people sang or read, or how Pastor Monte presided at this liturgy, in many ways it was the same liturgy as the first year Reconciler joined Immanuel and St Elias for the celebration of the Three Days. And actually not that different a liturgy from my first Easter Vigil at St Peter's Episcopal Church in San Pedro, CA. that in part being so foreign totally fascinated me and felt like one of the best worship services I had been to, (No one in my entire life up till that time had ever lit a fire in a church service , the exception being worship around a camp fire at camp.) Yet, I experienced it very differently, in part I think because of what I preached on Good Friday, and what that sermon brought up in me.

After the service there was a wonder full buffet reception with champagne. I ended up talking with the bishop elect of the independent catholic congregation that meets now also at Immanuel and joined us for these joint worship services. She had been episcopal. We had a wonderful conversation. But I don't know quite what to make of these folk. I have also gotten to know the priest and deacon of the Community of St Francis better over the course of the past few weeks as we finished up lent and the liturgy of the Three Days. I am not sure why one would move from being Protestant to join this particular group of Christians. There is both a weird spiritual connection it seems, or perhaps it is a similar desire or searching (that may be it more than spiritual connection) in this group but there is also something that does not sit well with me, that kind of makes me cautious and wary, not about them as persons but about the way they well are independent I guess, this strange attempted combination of both a claim to catholicity and a claim to independence which seems a little odd. Not that I have any ground to stand on and actually critique such a thing, but I am doing this ecumenical thing seeking some form of catholicity admitting I do so as a Protestant. And while I'd like to and have argued in the past for a certain catholicity in Protestantism, I am less certain of this. though this puzzles me since I still feel that the Lutheran Pietism of my Evangelical Covenant upbringing instilled in me a catholic and apostolic sensibility and desire. This is all very odd my work with reconciler and being at Immanuel seems to have brought me into an interesting group of former Roman Catholics, independent catholics and struggling mainline Protestants who seem to long for something more. Not sure what to make of this and with some of these it feels like we may be ships passing in opposite directions, and for a moment we share the same waters. I don't know but it has made for an interesting Easter Vigil.