“Episcopal” worship

Every Wednesday night this year, I’ve been involved in the team at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale that has put together the weekly Eucharist for the community. We’ve done all kinds of stuff—historic prayer books, no prayer books, prayer books from around the world, Eucharistic prayers where we—gasp!—change the words (and, for instance, replace all male imagery with female imagery). Each service, we believe, is authentically Anglican or Episcopal and yet there has been wide variety between them.

Last night was our mega-mondo, supa-spectacular, everything-AND-the-kitchen-sink, blow-em-out, LAST and FINAL community Eucharist of the year. (I’m working on patenting that phrase, by the way.) It lived up to its billing. We had Anglican chant, a beautiful choral anthem, a major organ prelude, a french horn, and—to top it all off—the steel band from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in New Haven.

All I can say about their performance is that it is a really good thing the chapel doors have good hinges. Otherwise, they would have been totally blown off by the sheer quality of the music. (You can hear some sample clips here but nothing compares to the real thing, especially in a place with acoustics as good as our chapel’s.)

And it all raises a really interesting question: worship is supposed to be a unifying feature for Anglicans. But what makes worship Anglican or Episcopal? And how can we tell when we see it?

(And another question: how much does the music used in a service have to have a certain “unity” to it? Based on last night, hardly any at all!)

St. Luke’s is the wonderful church I’ve been a part of during my time in New Haven and it was wonderful to have them at Berkeley where we have our own chapel dedicated to Luke.

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