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A Living Source

The Rev. Rita Powell
July 12, 2018

The world is burning, and I am studying medieval evensong. Does this sound mad? I hope so! But there it is. At the end of next week, Colin Lynch and I (along with Jason Abel from Christ Church, Alexandria) embark on a week of teaching, singing, and praying our way into the historical legacy of daily prayer as it has come to us in the Book of Common Prayer and 1982 Hymnal.  

I have come to suspect that the problems we face as a nation are deep, deep problems. I believe they are primarily occurring at the geologic layer rather than on the ground we can see and touch. I do not think we can address our current problems without deep patience and curious attention to that geology upon which we stand. 

And since my corner of the world is liturgy, it is through liturgical history that I must explore these layers. Going back into the past means looking for continuity with my ancestors. It means believing in an accountability beyond my immediate context. Going back to the past of the Church of England means acknowledging that I have and our church has a particular cultural origin. It is not the norm or the only right way; it is a specific way in a diversity of ways. Going back to the past of the daily office means imagining a time where time itself was different; it means seeking God in a way that is both familiar and new to me.

The world is burning, and I am studying medieval evensong. If there is any hope for us as a nation, I am confident it lies in one source, one cornerstone, one Lord. And if we have any hope of moving in and with the power of that One Spirit, then we must attend to the life of prayer as a church. We must not pray in a simple and shallow way that asks God to give us what we want, even if we convince ourselves that what we want is what God wants.  We must risk surrender to a stream of prayer that puts us in contact with a God we love and know but will never understand or contain. There are many streams and many sources. But it is only through deep attention that we find any of them to be wellsprings of the living God.


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