The Point of Worship
A Reflection by the Rev. Doyt L. Conn Jr.
At the Feast of Epiphany, on January 6, we celebrated 110 years of worship as a church. I spoke of worship as our core purpose and described how it sustains the competing impulses that exist between our outward push in service and our inward pull of hospitality. The metaphor I used was church as a star, drawing from the book of Revelation. It works because the same outward inward balance needed to keep a star burning is the same balance needed to keep a church thriving. A star is kept bright in the dark sky because of a dynamic interplay between an inward pull of gravity and an outward explosion of nuclear fusion. If the inward pull is too strong, the star collapses and dies. If the outward push is too strong, the star pulls apart and dies. It is the same with a church. There is a dynamic tension between being a spiritual center of gravity for the parishioners and a source of transformational energy for the world. That is the delicate dance of any church seeking to retain the radiance of purpose, which is worship.
This article is the first in a three-part series. Here, we will reflect on the purpose and power of worship. In the next article, we will reflect on invitation and hospitality as the spinning center of gravity at Epiphany. And finally, we will reflect on service and outreach as the manner through which we transform the world.
So, back to worship, stars, and the church. Just as neutrinos are the fuel that fires stars; so is worship the fuel that fires churches. Without neutrinos there are no stars; without worship there is no church. In our tradition, worship is called liturgy, meaning “the work of the people.” It is a patterned action that relationally orients us to God and to humanity. Let’s look at these relationships and how they are known through worship.
First, let us look at God. If we don’t believe in God at all, then worship makes no sense. If we believe in God even just a little tiny weeny bit however, then nothing makes more sense than to set aside time to orient ourselves toward God. After all, if God is God; then God has some characteristics superior to our own. And if that is the case, then showing up for God at a time and place outside our own convenience seems the just and honorable, if not rational, thing to do. I mean really, if there is a God, then doesn’t learning about God and being in relationship with God and seeking God seem an eminently reasonable thing to do? In fact, if you think hard about it, you might even decide it should be a priority in your life.
Worship is a patterned action that honors God, and it honors the relationships in which God has set us. When we worship we step into relationship with people from the past, including Epiphany’s past, and past Christians, all the way back to the person of Jesus, and further still all the way back to Adam and Eve. Through worship we intentionally connect with all of humanity who have worshiped God before us.
Worship also connects us to people in this present age. As many of you have experienced, we are connected to Anglicans around the world through common patterns of liturgy. Our common worship of God is a binding connection across cultures and nations.
Through liturgy we also seek relationship with people yet to come. Worship is organized to transcend time; to pass itself into the future as a means of honoring and acknowledging humanity’s connectedness. Worship articulates communal values to future generations. It says to them that worship is an action beyond ourselves, made to orient ourselves to something larger than ourselves. In this way, worship liberates us from the small, limited lives we lead.
So, worship is about our relationship with God and our relationship with humanity; past, present and future. For 110 years thousands of people have worshiped at Epiphany. We are a star, a church; and worship is our fuel given to ignite within us the dynamic tension between being a spiritual center of gravity and a source of energetic transformation. More about that next week…
Great Fun at Madrona Playfair
On Saturday, 14 January, the Audrey Seal and Barbara Parker, our Madrona community neighbors, organized the “Madrona Playfair” in our Great Hall. From 4 to 7 pm, families from our congregation and from our neighborhood came by to share snacks, play games, and read poetry. There were representatives from a “story corps” type organization and from Madrona K-8. There was a large variety of different things to do, but the most important thing that took place was the building of relationships. We got to know our neighbors and one another. Our neighbors got to come into our campus and find what a warm, inviting place it is. We of Epiphany took another step toward living into our calling to be a “Neighborhood Church,” a safe space that provides opportunity for connection and mutual care. Thank you to Holly Boone, in particular, who organized a craft fair for the duration. Thank you to everyone who attended and brought your children. We’re hoping this can become an annual affair, one more opportunity for us to shine the light of Christ into the world in which we live.
Did you miss the Playfair? Talk to Todd about how you might like to be involved in the Madrona Mayfair!
Affinity Group Mixer for Legal Professionals
January 24 – 6 pm – 7:30 pm – Fireside Room
Affinity groups are mixers meant to foster connections with people who have common interests, backgrounds or experience. The month’s Affinity Group is intended for those who work in the Legal Professions. If you are an attorney, judge, paralegal, or other professional involved in legal work, please join us in the Fireside Room on Tuesday, January 24, any time between 6 pm and 7.30 pm. Appetizers, Desserts and Beverages will be provided. RSVP to the church office.
Upcoming Affinity Gatherings
– Newcomers to Seattle: February 4, 5-6:30 pm
– Grown Children of Clergy (PK’s): February 11, 5-6:30 pm
– High-Tech Professions: February 25, 5:30-7 pm
Every Saturday in the Epiphany Chapel
8:30 a.m., for 30 minutes
The Prayer Team will lead us each week in prayer:
1. for folks on the prayer list;
2. for all newcomers to Epiphany (there are quite a few!);
3. that the Holy Spirit would come mightily in power and depth upon our church;
4. for the City of Seattle;
5. for our worship at Epiphany; and
6. for our own prayer requests today.
Everyone is welcome to join in this time of Epiphany community prayer.
“Transcendence and gifts of the spirit become more important in a world where truth is more questionable.” Doyt Conn
If you have questions, prayer requests, or would like to request healing prayer, show up on Saturday or please contact Robin Mondares by email or call 206-355-7948.
Seattle Epiphany Music Guild Concert
Mark Brombaugh, organist
January 29, 2017 – 6 pm
In the Chapel
Organist Mark Brombaugh will perform works of Buxtehude, Bach, Stanley, Woodman, and Gade on the new Chapel organ by Martin Pasi and Associates. Co-Director of Music at Christ Church, Tacoma, Brombaugh is formerly a faculty member in organ, harpsichord, and church music at the University of Oregon, Westminster Choir College, and the University of Illinois. At Westminister Choir College he was also Acting Head of the Church Music Department. He holds degrees from Oberlin College, the University of Louisville, and Yale University.
When Hurricane Matthew swept devastation and suffering across Haiti this past fall, Epiphany Parish was in a blessed position to offer immediate help. Your generous donations at last February’s Have a Heart parish fundraiser allowed us to dash off a check for $5000 to Father Joseph Constant’s Haiti Micah Project. Haiti Micah’s facilities and staff in Miralebais, Haiti—an orphanage, technical training school, and feeding program—were ready to respond to the influx of storm refugees in the most effective manner possible. No NGO middleman delayed or misdirected Epiphany’s gift, and our dollars, as you can imagine, stretched very far.
Earlier that spring, Princess Basma Hospital for Disabled Children in East Jerusalem faced a financial crisis. To receive the necessary licensing renewal from the authorities, they needed immediate upgrades to their kitchen. Through our association with the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ), which helps support Anglican health and educational institutions all over the Middle East, Epiphany was able to send $10,000 on short notice to help fund the necessary work. Epiphany pilgrims toured the hospital when we were in Jerusalem last February and learned first-hand of its incalculably vital work among disabled Palestinian children and adults in the West Bank. The hospital will continue to be a stop for future Epiphany pilgrims to the Holy Land.
At the end of the year, our Service & Outreach accounts had enough to make one final gift of $1500. Through our contacts at Wellspring Family Services, we knew those funds could be put to good use in their Early Learning Center.
Stories like these prove the value of our close relationships with the several local and international nonprofit organizations whose vital work this parish supports. As Doyt said in a recent Sunday morning forum, our offerings of prayers, time and money for this work are an outgrowth of our worship of God and discipleship of Jesus. And as everyone in the world of philanthropy can tell us, assistance we offer others is more meaningful and effective if we live in relationship with them.
Soon you will be receiving your invitation to the Have a Heart party on February 12. We invite you to come at 5:00 pm and first worship God at the beautiful Evensong service Tom and the Epiphany Choir invariably offer up. Then saunter into the Great Hall and enjoy the food, drink and good conversation. (It’s all free—no tickets necessary!) Look around and learn about Epiphany’s relationships with our nonprofit partners. Learn how much you can matter in so many ways to so many people here in Seattle and around the world.
We hope to see you there.
Epiphany’s Service & Outreach Team
What the heck is Have a Heart?
About this time of year, the phrase “Have a Heart” starts flying around here at Epiphany. Many of you newcomers to our parish must be scratching your heads. So here’s a brief explanation: Have a Heart is Epiphany’s big parish party where we eat and drink and chat with new and old friends. It’s where this parish also praises God and gives thanks while raising fund for its Service and Outreach ministries.
Donations at this event determine the coming year’s budget for Epiphany’s outreach ministries, which are not funded with your stewardship dollars as a parish operating expense. Your gifts at Have a Heart mean Epiphany can help support several local and international nonprofit organizations that work to relieve suffering in its many guises. You can learn more about these organizations on the Service and Outreach page of Epiphany’s website. [live link to our service and outreach page.]
Your generous gifts at Have a Heart mean Epiphany can help support organizations such the Princess Basma Hospital for Disabled Children in East Jerusalem. Here in Seattle, our most recent gift of $1500 is being used for Wellspring Family Service’s Early Learning Program for children of families going through hard times.
Meet Our 2017 Vestry Nominees
Third Sunday After Epiphany
Psalm 27:1, 5-13