For those of you who, again, may not know, I am a Franciscan monk belonging to the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans. As such, it is my privilege and joy to be able to prepare and preside at our annual Ash Wednesday service at Grace Community Church here in Mt. Vernon, IL. Ours is an interdenominational, somewhat charismatic, very protestant church, so anything that allows me to engage in liturgy and "high church" practices brings great joy to my life.
As a bit of background, I've been doing the service since 2006 and have seen increasingly growing numbers in attendance...often with tearful comments from participants afterwards:
"This is my favorite service of the year...thank you so much for doing this..."
"This service reminds me of my days in the Lutheran (Catholic, Episcopal) church...thank you so much for sharing."
I do not say these things to "blow my own horn," but to let you, dear reader, know that not all protestants are anti-liturgy, anti-ritual, anti-high church. I find great comfort in knowing that the readings we read, the rituals we practice have been done for thousands of years, and that we are joining in the true "Catholic" (Universal) Church when we partake in such holy occasions.
I have just found out that we (GCC) has appointed a "Minister of Decorative Worship" who will begin to keep the sanctuary in keeping with the colors of the liturgical calendar! I am SO GRATEFUL to have a pastor who appreciates, understands, and embraces the age-old practices of the liturgical calendar! WOOT! (WOOT is not a very spiritual comment I realize, but I am certain the term constitutes as a worshipful, holy expression!)
One thing I most enjoy about the service is our time of taking communion (The Lord's Supper, Eucharist, pick one) together. As in the OEF, we serve one another while standing in a circle. No one is "higher" than anyone else, and we practice true "Protestantism" by exercising our privilege as the "priesthood of all believers." Again, I belive this is in keeping with the TRUE spirit of the Church Universal, and the brotherhood/sisterhood of all humanity. :-)
I purchased this gorgeous, and (yes, I think VERY Franciscan looking) hand-thrown communion set from the good folks at Ocepek pottery. Theirs is truly a MINISTRY and not just a business. Each set comes lovingly packaged with a note of prayer and thanks for your purchase. I just love it.
I will hopefully have pictures to share of our service later on.
In other news, I am praying about what God would have me abstain from/give up for Lent, and I'm feeling strongly urged to give up my time on the computer and instead spend it in silent meditation and prayer. If this urging becomes reality, I shall not be posting for the 40 days of Lent and will return to blogdom to regale you with tales of my days of internet free reflection on Easter Sunday! I am hoping to go away on retreat during this time, as well as host a Silent Retreat for local folks who may feel so inclined.
If you have any questions regarding my monkdom, Ash Wednesday, or my leading a retreat or service for you and/or your church group, just email and let me know! I'd LOVE to drag the canned ham (my monk mobile) and visit YOU...whereEVER that may be!
Hugs, prayers and blessings upon you!
sr Paula Clare, OEF