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Worship, nurture, and witness

November 4, 2013

IN our travels, we too often find clergy who seem to be embarrassed of the church. What’s funny is that, left to their own devices, the laity are seldom so embarrassed, but the clergy have taught by example constantly to apologize for liturgy and worship. Liturgy is not what we do as Christians. Building houses, or making soup, or praying for inmates is what we do.

How anemic, and how wrong.

As a former rector of mine once pointed out, if Jesus Christ appeared before you, you would be on your face in the dirt, echoing the tax collector: “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Worship and the life of the church are at the very heart of what we do as Christians. Worship is our first duty, the one that sets up and informs all the others. We confess our sin to almighty God, as the Prayer Book says, “when we assemble and meet together to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul.”

St. David's Church

St. David’s Church

It cheers us, therefore, to find that Robin Dodge, rector of St. David’s Church in Washington, D.C., has penned a welcome to his parish that spells out such a vision and offers a warm and comprehensive theology of the church is and what it is for.

St. David’s is characterized by its commitment to Worship, Nurture, and Witness. We begin with worship, for we are all created in God’s image to give him thanks, and praise, and glory. As members of Christ’s Body, the Church, we assemble, bringing all of the gifts God has bestowed upon us, in order that we might give thanks (from the Greek, Eucharist) to God for his many blessings and so that we can be fed and nurtured to go out into the world living the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We come to St. David’s as individuals with many gifts and needs, longing to be part of something larger than ourselves. We recognize that we need sustenance as fellow pilgrims on the journey of life and in the way of the Cross. In addition to being nurtured through worship at St. David’s, we also feed our minds, our hearts, our souls, and our bodies – through Christian faith formation and education for all ages, and through Christian hospitality and fellowship at every opportunity.

Once we have come together for worship and nurture in this Christian community, we are called to go out into the world as witnesses of the Good News of Jesus Christ. A former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, noted that “the church is the only organization that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.” As the Body of Christ, the Church, we are Jesus’ eyes and ears, and hands and feet. We are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.

There we have it. The Christian life—and therefore the life of the church—begins in worship, is supported by the nurture of the faithful, and proceeds out into the world in humble service, bearing witness in word and deed to the saving death of Jesus Christ. No apologies required.

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