KH | ET Student
On the evening part of our group gathered within a simple and serene parish on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, the church seemed overwhelmed with worshippers. We had gathered for Evensong and were ushered to sit in the quire. It seemed that the normal Evensong crowd did not fill this seating but when we arrived, the quire was overflowing. I laughed at the irony, as students from urban Baptist University worshipped with the quiet population of a small island in an Anglican parish.
Our scattered group followed the programs, which outlined exactly what we would read aloud together, what the presider of the service would read and whether we should stand or sit. It quickly became apparent our group was different. Our accents stood out, often we’d speak at the wrong time or when a moment of silence was intended. Nothing so far on our trip had made me so severely aware of my foreign-ness and pleasantly disoriented.
Amidst our stumbling over mismatched pronunciations and our lack of familiarity with the hymns, something joyful fascinated me: intention. Evensong, a tradition in the Anglican Church, has incredible intentionality built into its structure. The credit for this structure belongs to Thomas Cranmer, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of King Henry VIII and the two following monarchs. Cranmer reworked and simplified the Anglican service, through his work on the Book of Common Prayer, which is still practiced in the church today.
The structure of Evensong is vastly different from my version of “normal worship”, yet I observed that each moment of the service deepens the worshippers’ faith, glorifies God and follows scripture. Together, as an international body of Christ followers, we prayed aloud, reminding each other of the impact of Christ’s death.
At moments it felt disorienting, but as I pondered the evening I realized that disorientation often produces fresh perspective. Looking across to the British worshippers, it struck me that I often have a self-serving view of what worship is. In its simplest form, worship is how we respond to our object of worship. It is a cause and effect relationship: because God is good, I will ‘fill in the blank’ to glorify Him.
The Lord is entirely deserving of praise, and receives it from all corners of creation. Grass is growing for His glory and birds are flying to praise Him. Why then is it so difficult for us?
I suggest that we gain a new perspective and step out of what is normal. God is present in places we never thought to look. Therefore, seek and find him in worship styles you have never experienced. Intentionally offer your time to God. Get uncomfortable. It is when you break the mold of the ordinary that extraordinary opportunities for worship appear.