Thursday, April 22, 2010

A meditation: God's dwelling place.

"Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young, at thy altars, O Lord of hosts.... Blessed are those who dwell in thy house, ever singing thy praise!" (Psalm 84:3-4, RSV).

The great west door of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London swung open to admit a colorful and stately procession. The year was 1958, and all the bishops of the Anglican communion, more than 300 of them from around the world, were on hand for the beginning of their Lambeth conference, held once every 10 years.

I watched as the verger and cross bearer led the procession of bishops robed in red and white, followed by the choir, the primate and metropolitans, finally by the Archbishop of Canterbury--all moving to the front of the nave to stand before the high altar. Such an occasion must have been in the mind of the architect, Sir Christopher Wren, when he designed a church so rich in symbolism, gleaming in glass and stone, in wood and metal, topped by a dome that would dominate the London skyline.

Just a few weeks later that same summer I attended another convocation, composed this time mostly of a few hundred Americans who had come to Schwarzenau in Germany to join with German friends there on the 250th anniversary of the beginning of the Church of the Brethren. Perhaps it was appropriate that, of the three major services then, two were held in a tent provided alongside the Alexander Mack School in the village, the other on the banks of the River Eder where the initial service of baptism of eight persons launched the new church.

There were some church dignitaries at Schwarzenau: Bishop Ernst Wilm of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Dr. W.A. Visser’t Hooft, then secretary of the World Council of Churches, as well as Brethren officials. And there were printed orders of service in both German and English. But somehow the occasion did not require a vast sanctuary with stained-glass windows. The temporary tent, the soft sunlight, the view of tree-lined mountains, and the quiet movement of the stream nearby--all of these contributed to an awareness of God’s presence and a tie with a past day when some Christians separated themselves from their imposing church buildings to seek for a deeper sense of God’s dwelling in a community of believers.

-- This excerpt from "Move in Our Midst," Kenneth Morse’s book on the nature of worship published by Brethren Press in 1977, is reprinted here with permission. This small paperback book is available to order for $1.50 plus shipping and handling; call 800-441-3712. More resources related to church and environment are available from Brethren Press at

Source: 4/22/2010 Newsline

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