On Sunday I worshipped with one of the congregations I have been called to serve at Brookmans Park URC. The service was led by Martin Horak, one of the two ministers they currently share with Potters Bar URC.
This was in many ways a very typical URC Sunday morning. A simple, light-filled room with a stage at one end and a plain chancel at the other. Chairs drawn up in rows facing a lectern and organ at the chancel end. Some but not a huge amount of decoration on the walls including banners made by the church. Around twenty people, mostly past retirement age.
Martin took us through an order of service familiar in structure to anyone who has attended our churches. A call to worship and then five hymns with between them two prayers, two Scripture readings., two talks (one informal the other a sermon), the offertory, the blessing. And it was beautiful. It was suffused with the Spirit, it reminded me in an almost overwhelmingly powerful way of what I believe myself called to do as a minister of word and sacrament.
What struck me most as I reflected on why I had found it so deeply moving, so apt to allow God’s presence and God’s word to touch me was how unforced it seemed, how naturally it all seemed to flow from the faith Martin shared with the worshipping community who heard and responded to his call.
At no point, as he uttered on our behalf the prayers of approach in which he articulated God’s awesome majesty and our confidence in God’s sustaining love and willingness to be with us; as he confessed our failings and our sure and certain hope of forgiveness and reconciliation; as he imaginatively reflected on Stephen’s baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by helping us to think about what baptism means to us and to create visual images that would sustain those reflections; as he spoke to us of the ways in which we are bound to Jesus through an exploration of the “I am the true vine”; as he offered thanks and intercession; at no point did I have any doubt that he meant every word and that all of us could trust the Spirit working in and through him.
There was no drama, no performance, just a straightforward articulation of our shared faith.
Most of what we sang was unfamiliar to me and some, frankly, was beyond my capabilities. But all were clearly carefully chosen to fit the theme and mood of of the service and all helped me to hear the Word.
The informal but intent prayerfulness of the meeting similarly assisted me in feeling my faith to be one that belonged not to me but to The Church and to be a gift of grace.
Thus this simple and unpretentious liturgy and the deeply thoughtful and sophisticated but clearly and directly presented preaching was, for me, a moment of contact with God.
And all this reminded me that this is what I feel myself called to above all. The leading of God’s people in worship and the preaching of God’s Word are what defines ministry, for me. These Sunday mornings are the core of it.
This is not to say that I don’t see the value of all the other aspects of what I will be called upon to do. I see pastoral care and pastoral visiting as integral, I see and respect the importance of denominational and ecumenical committees, of various kinds of outreach and mission, but all of this makes sense to me only as brought together and into focus by the act of worship.