Saturday, November 30, 2013

“I could not rest until I found a church like that”

Frederick Buechner was a guest lecturer at Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL in the fall of 1985. While doing so, he attended St. Barnabas. He later wrote about his time here:

I also found myself going to an extraordinary church or, with my rather dim experience of churches back home, one that was extraordinary at least to me. Its name was Saint Barnabas, and it was located in a small town nearby called Glen Ellyn. It was described to me as an evangelical high Episcopal church, and that seemed so wonderfully anomalous that what took me there first was pure curiosity. What kept taking me back Sunday after Sunday, however, was something else again. Part of the service was chanted at Saint Barnabas, and I discovered that when a prayer or a psalm or a passage from the Gospels is sung, you hear it in a new way. Words wear thin after a while, especially religious words. We have spoken them and listened to them so often that after a while we hardly even hear them anymore. As writer, preacher, teacher I have spent so much of my life dealing with words that I find I get fed up with them. I get fed up especially with my own words and the sound of my own voice endlessly speaking them. What the chanting words did was to remind me that worship is more than words and then in a way to give words back to me again. It reminded me that words are not only meaning but music and magic and power. The chanting italicized them, made poetry of their prose. It helped me hear the holiness in them and in all of us as we chanted them.

. . . .

They also used incense at Saint Barnabas. They censed the open pages of the Gospel before they read from it, and even in the midst of a midwestern October heat wave, the church was suddenly filled with Christmas. The hushed fragrance of it, the thin haze of it, seemed to say that it is not just to our minds that God seeks to make himself known, because, whatever we may think, we are much more than just our minds, but to our sense of touch and taste too, to our seeing and hearing and smelling the air whether it is incense that the air is laden with or burning leaves or baking bread or honest human sweat. “O taste and see that the Lord is good!” says the 34th Psalm, and it is not just being metaphorical.

. . . .

And I remember too that the last time I attended a service there, there were real tears running down my cheeks at the realization that the chances were I would probably never find myself there again. When I got home, I thought I could not rest until I found a church like that.
Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets,
(New York: Harper San Francisco, 1991), p. 82-86

1 comment:

Rosanna said...

This is such a wonderful blog...I hope you'll post some more. Sad that there is no option for email subscription, as I don't know how to subcribe through readers. Anyway, I am bookmarking this link and will certainly visit as often as I can.