Why worship? In this superb new collection of essays, lay people, clergy, poets, theologians, musicians, novelists, and scholars offer personal, profound, and provocative reflections on their experience of worship in The Episcopal Church. Through their flesh-and-blood stories of longing, loss, and love, we encounter the God who meets us in common prayer.
Editors of this collection, Joseph S. Pagano and Amy E. Richter are Episcopal priests, appointed missionaries for The Episcopal Church, and serve as lecturers in theology at the College of Transfiguration in Makhanda/Grahamstown, South Africa. They are married to each other and keep a blog about their ministry as Episcopal Volunteers in Mission at joeandamygotoafrica.com
One of my teachers used to say that life in Christ is mostly about surviving your baptism.
J. Neil Alexander in “Of Sacraments and Sundays”
J. Neil Alexander is a Bishop of The Episcopal Church and presently serves as Dean, Professor of Liturgy, and Charles Todd Quintard Professor of Theology in the School of Theology of the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.
If Christianity is going to confront climate change, perhaps it needs to rewild itself, go feral.
Fred Bahnson in “The Priest in the Trees”
Fred Bahnson is the author of Soil & Sacrament (Simon & Schuster, 2013) and co-author with Norman Wirzba of Making Peace With the Land (InterVarsity, 2012). His essays have appeared in Harper’s, Oxford American, Image, Orion, The Sun, Washington Post, and Best American Spiritual Writing.
The acolyte blowing bubble gum bubbles in church matters to God.
Michael Battle in “The Sound of One Hand Clapping”
Michael Battle is the Herbert Thompson Professor of Church and Society and Director of the Desmond Tutu Center at General Theological Seminary in New York. He was ordained a priest by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1993. Battle has published nine books, including Reconciliation: the Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu, and the book for The Episcopal Church’s General Convention, Ubuntu: I in You and You in Me.
I am flooded with emotion every time I hear the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish.
Luisa Bonillas in “Finding Home”
Luisa Bonillas lives in Arizona with her family. She received her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and her PhD from Arizona State University. Her focus was twentieth century American History and her dissertation topic was a History of Women of Color at Wellesley College, 1966-2001. Luisa joined The Episcopal Church in 1996 and has worked for a mission, parish, cathedral, diocese, and the wider church.
Now I dress up not a as a Superman but, on many Sunday mornings, as a humble acolyte. I wear not a blue suit and red cape but a white alb and a colored scapular.
Rodney Clapp in “The Play of the People”
Rodney Clapp is an editor at Cascade Books. He is the author of several award-winning books, including A Peculiar People: Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society and Tortured Wonders: Christian Spirituality for People, Not Angels. His most recent book is New Creation: A Primer on Living in the Time Between the Times. He and his wife pray at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Glen Ellyn, Illinois.
A quietness, and in that silence, beyond that silence, a mystery.
Kim Edwards in “Ordinary Time”
Kim Edwards is the author of two novels, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and The Lake of Dreams, as well as the story collection The Secrets of a Fire King. She and her husband have two grown daughters. Kim divides her time between Lexington, Kentucky and Seneca Falls, New York; she is finishing a new novel, Lionfish.
I may not be a good Episcopalian yet, but I’m working on it.Melissa Deckman Fallon, in “Bad Episcopalian”
Melissa Deckman Fallon in “Bad Episcopalian”
Melissa Deckman Fallon is the Louis L. Goldstein Professor of Public Affairs at Washington College. She also chairs the board and is an Affiliated Scholar of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Prof. Deckman’s areas of specialty include gender, religion and political behavior. The author of more than a dozen scholarly articles and several books, her latest book is Tea Party Women: Mama Grizzlies, Grassroots Leaders, and the Changing Face of the American Right (NYU Press, 2016).
It is too easy a thing to think the success of our worship depends on the choir, or the preacher, or the celebrant when it really depends on God’s unrelenting and eager openness to our offerings.
Stephen Fowl in “Singing in the Choir”
Stephen Fowl is Professor of Theology and Dean of Loyola College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, MD. Steve and his family worship at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore. An active lay person, Steve preaches and teaches in parishes around the country. He also serves on the House of Bishop’s Theology Committee.
What we have discovered at St. Gregory’s is that the core value of liturgical leadership—among the ordained and the non-ordained—is the giveaway.
Paul Fromberg in “Dancing in Friendship with God”
Paul Fromberg is the rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. He teaches at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and for The Episcopal Church in Minnesota. Paul is also a consultant, retreat leader and mentor. He is The Episcopal Church’s representative for the Consultation on Common Texts and a member of the Standing Commission on Music and Liturgy. He is the author of The Art of Transformation (Church Publishing, 2017).
The most spiritually and emotionally difficult act for me as a priest was the first time I imposed ashes on my children’s foreheads.
Kathryn Greene-McCreight in “Ashes”
Kathryn Greene-McCreight is a Priest Affiliate at Christ Church Episcopal, New Haven where she also serves as a spiritual director to Saint Hilda’s House. She is a mentor with Berkeley Divinity School’s Annand Program at Yale Divinity School. Kathryn’s most recent books include Darkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness, Revised Edition (Brazos, 2015), and I Am With You: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book, 2016, (Bloomsbury, 2016). Kathryn is co-chair of the Patient and Family Advisory Council of Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital, and is on the board of the Elm City Affiliate of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). She has two adult children, and lives in New Haven with her husband and goldendoodle.
Cameron Dezen Hammon in “Let Light Perpetual Shine Upon Them”
Cameron Dezen Hammon is a writer and musician whose work has appeared in Ecotone, The Rumpus, The Literary Review, The Butter, Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog,The Houston Chronicle, and elsewhere. Her essay “Infirmary Music” was named a notable in The Best American Essays 2017, and she is the host of The Ishpodcast. Her first book, This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession, will be published by Lookout Books in 2019.
Liturgy is not just something else Christians do. Liturgy makes us Christians.
Stanley Hauerwas in the Foreword
Stanley Hauerwas is Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity at Duke University. He was named “America’s Best Theologian” by Timemagazine in 2001, the same year that he delivered the Gifford Lectureship at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. His book, A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic,was selected as one of the 100 most important books on religion of the twentieth century
Little did I realize then that the deep remembrance of our Lord’s death that evening would be what, liturgically speaking, brought me back to life.
BJ Heyboer in “Being Remembered in the Liturgy”
BJ Heyboer is priest of two rural parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan. Prior to ordination, BJ worked for more than twenty years in religious book publishing, most recently as cofounder of Brazos Press and senior marketing director for books published by Brazos and Baker Academic.
Faith wasn’t private. But it was deeply personal, as personal as a lover pursuing me halfway around the world.
Rhonda Mawhood Lee in “Indissoluble”
Rhonda Mawhood Lee is a priest, writer, and spiritual director. She currently serves as a canon to the bishop of North Carolina.
I tried desperately to be an atheist, but within weeks realized that was impossible because I was still praying.
Ian S. Markham in “How the Book of Common Prayer Kept Me in the Family of Faith”
Ian S. Markham is the dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary and professor of theology and ethics. He is the author of many books including Liturgical Life Principles (Church Publishing) and Understanding Christian Doctrine (Wiley Blackwell). He is a priest associate at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Old Town Alexandria, VA. He is married to Lesley and has one son, Luke.
Now before we eat, let’s remember who we really are. Let’s remember where this food comes from.
Duane Miller in “Spreading Blessing to Those Who Don’t Work for It: Liturgical Reflections of a Cross-Cultural Missionary”
Duane Miller is a native of Montana but has lived and ministered in many paces, including Mexico, Jordan, Israel and Spain. He is married to Sharon and they have three young children. They live in Madrid where Duane serves as priest at the Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer and is associate professor at the Protestant Faculty of Theology (UEBE).
Joseph S. Pagano currently serves as an appointed missionary of The Episcopal Church. He is a visiting lecturer in theology at The College of the Transfiguration in Makhanda/Grahamstown, South Africa. He is married to Amy Richter.
As we chanted the prayers, I wondered what the Christians from my childhood would think of this ritual.
Amy Peterson in “A Beautiful Inheritance”
Amy Peterson is the author of Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World (Discovery House, 2017). She’s at work on a book reimagining virtues for our current political moment (W Publishing, 2020). Amy and her family are members of Gethsemane Episcopal Church in Marion, Indiana.
What a magical thing to have a uniform that signals love.
Spencer Reece in “The Little Entrance”
Spencer Reece is the author of The Clerk´s Tale(2004) and The Road to Emmaus(2014). In 2017 he edited an anthology of poems by abandoned girls in a home called Our Little Roses in San Pedro Sula, Honduras: Counting Time Like People Count Stars. A book of prose, sixteen years in the making,The Little Entrance: Devotions, mixing autobiography with literary appreciation of poets, will be out by 2020. In 2012 he founded the Unamuno Author Series in Madrid, Spain.
It’s probably a bad thing in a priest, but sometimes I find it easier to believe in demons than angels.
Amy E. Richter in “The Great Celestial-Terrestrial Choir”
Amy E. Richter currently serves as an appointed missionary of The Episcopal Church. She is a visiting lecturer in biblical studies at The College of the Transfiguration in Makhanda/Grahamstown, South Africa. She is married to Joseph Pagano.
C. K. Robertson is Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry Beyond The Episcopal Church and Distinguished Visiting Professor at General Theological Seminary. He serves as General Editor of the “Studies in Episcopal and Anglican Theology” series through Peter Lang Publishing, and has written over a dozen books including Barnabas vs. Paul and A Dangerous Dozen.
Are these inklings of the divine—a hug I didn’t know I needed, the eyes of this little girl on me?
Sophfronia Scott in “A Taste of Grace”
Sophfronia Scott is author of an essay collection, Love’s Long Line (Mad Creek Books/Ohio State University Press), a memoir, This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World (Paraclete Press), and two novels, Unforgivable Love (William Morrow/HarperCollins) and All I Need to Get By (St. Martin’s Press).
I love the particularity: the priest is not blessing allcreatures, but rather Micky, Misty, Socks, Tweety, Molly, Percy.
Rachel Marie Stone in “God Bless Rocket and Bobo and Tigger”
Rachel Marie Stone teaches English and helps run a girls’ dorm at a boarding school on Long Island, NY. She is the author of four books, including the award-winning Eat With Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food, and, most recently, Birthing Hope, a memoir on motherhood and anxiety.
[B]ecause the cosmos bears the image of its creator, traces of Jesus really are there in the moon.
Lauren F. Winner in “The Image Turns Back”
Lauren F. Winner is the vicar of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Louisburg, North Carolina, and a professor at Duke Divinity School. Her books include Girl Meets God, Mudhouse Sabbath, A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, Wearing God, and most recently The Dangers of Christian Practice.