Worship in the Woods
I am usually a “10 o’clocker,” which means that I primarily attend the 10 am service at St. Brendan’s—partly because I enjoy the music and the children’s participation that occur at the later service, but also because I really enjoy getting in an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning! It is even easy sometimes to forget that there are two Sunday services, especially because most of the social events held on Sunday are held after the 10 am service, which has a larger attendance. But, for any of you who, like myself, don’t frequent the 8 am Sunday service or for those who are looking for something a little bit different, summer is a great time to give the 8 am service a try and celebrate God in creation and in community.
This past Sunday, I set my alarm so I could join the “8 o’clockers” in worshiping in the woods. During the summer, when the weather is nice, the 8 am service is held in the outdoor chapel. The outdoor chapel, which is down the stairs to the left of the church when you are facing the main entrance, is situated beneath a large 300-year old oak tree. And, as Joni, who sings in the choir at the 10 am service most of the year but comes to the 8 am service during the summer, says, “To stand and worship underneath [the tree] is breathtaking!”
Indeed, there is something special about worshiping beneath the open sky with light flickering through the trees and praying alongside a chorus of chirping birds—although a few of us did end up playing “musical chairs” during the service, moving seats to avoid the morning sun which rises directly behind the altar… and right into our eyes. The service follows the same Rite II Eucharistic service as the 10 am service but without any music or singing, so it runs a bit shorter—except for the peace. Fr. Regis says that those who attend the 8 am service have formed a close community and the peace goes on longer because everyone takes the time to greet each person. Because of the smaller setting, the whole service has a more intimate feel.
When asked why they enjoy the 8 am service, many parishioners described it as “a peaceful service” and spoke about the impact of worshiping in nature. “I love being outside in the sunshine under the magnificent oak tree, listening to the birds singing,” says Sylvia; “It makes me feel a part of God’s creation and fills me with wonder at what He has given us.”
Psalm 19: 1-4a shares this feeling:
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
St. Francis of Assisi also captures this experience in his Canticle of Brother Sun:
Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, Who is the day through whom You give us light. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor, Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
So, if you are looking for an intimate and peaceful service in God’s creation, or simply want to change up your Sunday routine, consider attending St. Brendan’s 8 am worship service. Come celebrate the Eucharist in the out-of-doors and watch the sun rise behind the great oak tree—and maybe remember to bring a hat or a pair of sunglasses!
Grace and Peace,
Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, biblical scholar, or official spokesperson for The Episcopal Church. If you read anything on this blog that is inaccurate or contrary to the teachings of The Episcopal Church, consider it my error and please let me know! If you have any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.