Monday, September 29, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Fifteen


            A cloudy beginning to the day, but coffee and breakfast made it better and then we were off to church.  Today we decided to go to St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Annapolis Royal.  The Anglican Church in Canada is the same as the Episcopal Church  in the USA.  We arrived early and were welcomed warmly by two greeters in the entrance.  They asked where we were from and when we told them we were from Texas they were very interested in knowing why we were here and we chatted a bit before entering the sanctuary. 
            The church is very historic, dating back to the 1600s when Annapolis Royal was founded.   The present building dates only to 1922 but there have been earlier buildings on the site or in other places in the general vicinity since the early 1600s because this church was the Garrison Church connected with the Anglican Church so that the soldiers assigned to Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal would attend church at St. Luke’s.  There are many colorful and beautiful stained glass windows depicting the life of Christ as well as plaques set in the walls in memory of persons who have been members of priests of this church over the years. 
            The service was very liturgical and traditional as Anglican or Episcopal services tend to be, with the priest chanting some of the parts of the liturgy including those connected with the serving of Holy Communion.  We were welcomed to receive Communion, of course, because they believe in Open Communion, as we do, and that all Christians can share in it.  Persons walked forward to the altar and could choose to stand or kneel to receive the bread and wine.  Doris and I knelt and the priest gave us a wafer and you could either dip it in the wine or drink out of the cup.  Doris dipped and I drank from the cup (they use sherry with a higher alcohol content to help kill any germs in the common cup).  I enjoyed receiving communion here and enjoyed the liturgy. 
            The hymns that were sung were mostly unfamiliar.  One had familiar lyrics but the tune they used was not familiar so I tried to sing along as best I could.  The tunes to the responses that were sung during the Communion liturgy were not familiar but were easy enough to sing with. 
            The sermon preached by the priest was based on the lectionary readings that we were also reading in worship at Weimar.  I had read them in advance before going to church and was familiar with them.  The sermon was based on the story of the woman who wanted Jesus to heal her daughter although she was a Gentile.  When Jesus told her that he could not give the children’s bread to the dogs, she said that the dogs get to eat the crumbs that fall from the table.  Jesus saw her great faith and answered her request.  The sermon was about not seeing others as “them” and ourselves as “us” but striving to see all as part of “us”.  It was very insightful and interesting.  The examples he gave during his sermon were from Canadian experience but were common to ours in the US as well. 
            The priest greeted us after worship outside and was warm and welcoming.  We enjoyed the service, although the customs were a bit different than our own.  It is helpful to be part of a service now and then that is different from our own to help us relate to how it feels to be a visitor in a worship service.  The instructions given during the service helped us to find our places in the hymnal and worship book even though we did not always know exactly what to do during the parts of the service that were chanted. 
            We enjoy visiting worship that is different when we are in places that offer such worship opportunities.  We will most likely visit a different style next week to gain a greater understanding of the span of worship in this area. 

            I continue to read books that I brought to read during my time here.  I just finished another one, this time If Grace is True, Why God Will Save Every Person by Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland.  I decided to read it because I read in the newsletters and postings of two of our UCC churches in the Brazos Association that they had been studying this book in study groups at their churches.  So, I thought I may want to read it and find out what they are studying and if we may want to study it together also. 
            It is a very interesting and intriguing book and a very easy book to read.  I think I finished it in about 3 days, devoting 1-2 hours daily to reading it.  The authors declare the idea that they believe that God will save every person on earth.  Then, they explain in great detail why they think that.  I am not saying that I agree with everything they say in the book but I think it would be a good book for discussion sake.  I think that it would be a good book to help us clarify why we think what we think about God, about humankind, and about Scripture and the role that it plays in the formulation of what we think about eternal destiny. 
            The basic premise to the book is that if God’s grace truly accepts all humans and brings them to an understanding of God, since grace is unmerited favor (meaning it cannot be earned but is given freely) then all human beings are recipients of God’s grace and are being drawn to God through that grace.  The authors argue that if that is true, then God will bring all human beings to God at some time in their lives or in the world to come. 
            The authors declare at the beginning of the book that they do not consider all of scripture to hold equal value (and neither do most of us or we would be following all of those dietary laws in the Old Testament and we would not allow women to speak in church, both of which are given as commandments in the Bible) and that the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor supersedes all else in scripture.  Through careful examination of many scripture passages they present their conclusion that God will save all persons. 
            As I said I am not saying I agree with everything they present in their book but I would enjoy a discussion around the book if others in our church would like to read and study it together.  The great thing about belonging to a United Church of Christ church is that we agree to disagree and to do it agreeably.  We promise to love one another and not to let our differences of opinion strife among us. 
            I can tell you that even the closest of family members do not always agree on everything that is discussed.  There are differences and that is healthy but we can love one another because love is bounded in our source of love, God our Father and his son Jesus Christ, who loves us despite our failures. 
            “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love, does not know God, for God is love.”  (I John 4:7-8)

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