How to Be the Church
From the catechism in the Book of Common Prayer:
Q. What is the Church?
A. The Church is the community of the New Covenant.
[In other words, the Church is not the building, much as we might love the building.]
Q. How is the Church described in the Bible?
A. The Church is described as the Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head and of which all baptized persons are members. It is called the People of God, the New Israel, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, and the pillar and ground of truth.
[In other words, we don’t have to worry about the Church when our doors are closed. She’ll be just fine.]
Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
[In other words, the Church is always thinking about people who aren’t in the pews anyway. So okay, none of us is in the pew today. Our mission is the same as it ever was.]
Q. How does the Church pursue its mission?
A. The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.
Here are some ways to pursue our mission at Atonement during this time when our gatherings are limited out of love for our neighbor:
Pray and worship
Morning Prayer: Beginning tomorrow, we will have live Morning Prayer at 8:30 am on our Facebook page. We will be praying Morning Prayer Rite II. The easiest way for you to follow along is to use the wonderful Daily Office app from the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory. You can find it here. Once you’ve opened the page, if you then add the page to the home screen of your phone, it’ll show up just like an app that you’ve downloaded from a store. You are invited to join us every morning, Monday – Friday, for this regular prayer of the Church.
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
On Wednesday and Friday, from noon until 1:00 pm, we will live stream Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. We invite you to take some time on these days of fasting to sit before the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, to pray that Christ will strengthen and heal us in this time of national crisis, and, and the same time, to be assured that he is always with us and that wherever we are, we are never alone.
There are several churches that are live streaming daily Mass – Saint Mark’s, Philadelphia, my former parish, being one of them. Saint Mark’s will be streaming Mass on Facebook at 9:00 am (Chicago time) every day. Click here to find a beautiful prayer to pray while you are watching, but not receiving, Holy Communion. We will announce our plans for Mass this Sunday later in the week.
Go into your closet – or your apartment that might feel like a closet these days – and pray to the God who loves you. Continue to pray for our nation on Wednesdays, as we have committed to do at Atonement. Pray for doctors and nurses every day. Pray for the leaders of our nation every day. Pray for those who are sick every day. Pray for those who are alone every day. Pray our parish prayer list every day.
Proclaim the Gospel
“Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” This famous saying attributed to St. Francis of Assisi reminds us that there are many and various ways to show forth the light of the Gospel in our lives and in the world. Demonstrating a sense of hope in a time of anxiety is preaching the Gospel. Practicing generosity in a time of nervous stockpiling is preaching the Gospel. Giving to the Church and to community organizations in a time when scarcity raises its serpent-like head is preaching the Gospel. Living and loving without fear, along with the sensible precautions you’re taking, is preaching the Gospel.
Promote justice, peace, and love
In these days of “social distancing,” we, the Church, can also practice “spiritual closeness.” Here are some ways to keep connected to one other:
Reach out to a neighbor: Are there people in your apartment building who live alone? Older people you know to be isolated? Give them a call, or slip a postcard offering help under their door. Maybe you can’t go inside and give them a hug, but you might be able to leave some cat food on their doorstep, text them a joke, or pray with them over the phone.
Reach out to your church: If you are in need of help or prayer, reach out to the church office or the Rector on my pastoral care line (773.530.8556).
Volunteer with the 48th Ward: Alderman Osterman invited people to sign up to help a neighbor in need. If you’re interested in helping with this program, you can register here.
And there will be more – more opportunities to serve, to pray, and to proclaim the Gospel. Stay tuned for more emails and more information on Facebook as we create more opportunities for connection. If you have ideas, or if you have a need, please contact me.
May God continue to bless and grow the Church!