Today was my first encounter with the traditional Anglican three hour service.
Growing up in Newfoundland, our church always had a three hour service. But, as children, Mom figured we'd never last through the whole thing. We'd attend the morning service designed for families, and in the afternoon, we'd dye Easter eggs and eat homemade macaroni and cheese. That's my memory of the three hour service, and it's a good one!
I arrived at Redeemer this morning at 11am for a rehearsal with the praise team. There were only three of us (oddly symbolic of the three hours). By noon, there were very few people in the sanctuary, and no mad rush of cars in the parking lot. On Palm Sunday, Thomas told people they were not obligated to stay for the full three hours; they could come late, leave early, or just drop by for an hour. Some people did that, but a few minutes after the service started, a decent crowd gathered and stayed for the whole time. We were all in it together.
We worshiped for three hours, from noon to 3pm, to symbolize the time Jesus hung on the cross. The theme of the service was the seven last words of Jesus. Thomas opened and closed the service, but the bulk of things were lead by various staff members. For each word, a staff member would read the Bible passage containing that word, then give their own ten minute meditation/homily/interpretation of that word. We would pray, sing a musical reflection, and then there was a long period of silence before the next word.
And let me tell you, there was a lot of silence! At first, it was a little uncomfortable. What do you do? What to think about? But after a while, you settle into contemplative worship, and the whole thing becomes quite wonderful. I thought back to the quiet day I spent at the monastery a few years ago. We live in such loud and busy times. It's good sometimes to just be still and know that He is God...