Well, we’ve been to Philly, and I’m now sitting down in Brigantine (New Jersey). We went to the 11 AM worhship at Christ Church this morning (home, at one time, to Ben Franklin). It’s very much a historic church, but the people feel pretty well connected to today. It has the old “half pew” system, numbered (I assume to denote who was originally allowed to sit in which pew) that I only remember seeing once before. Not all that comfortable. And it has wonderful clear glass windows behind the altar (unfortunately now viewing a rather ugly fire escape on a neighboring building). But people were friendly, and it was a good service.
The only big negative, and it mattered to me, was that the other two clergy up front seemed bored (yawning, looking elsewhere, reading things and just generally not at all attentive to the preacher). My wife noticed it too. (In fact, she brought it to my attention. I’d been focused on the sermon to that point.) I suspect (and really hope) appearances were deceiving. But it was really distracting.
Anyway, the sermon was on David and Goliath. According to the program, it was given by the Rev. Susan Richardson. She suggested that many of us might have an overly simplistic view of this passage. (And that when a passage of scripture seemed very simple and straight forward, we probably had an overly simplistic view of that passage.) Rather than seeing David (and Isreal) as the wonderful person (and nation) who God sided with enjoying a wonderful military victory, she suggested we see David as someone who worked to place himself on God’s side. (This in contrast to the armies of both sides, looking for standard military victories.) She noted that a key part of what David did was talk, and give a theological explanation of God’s actions through him (rather than his own actions, as supported by God). I was with her this far.
She went on to suggest that this is a passage that, while using stereotypes, really was about destroying stereotypes of all kinds (and she went on to give some interesting contemporary examples). I didn’t follow her here (though I think the Bible does this elsewhere), but I found her thinking interesting.
For me, really, the most touching thing about the whole service was to see the preacher really acting as an acholyte for the acholyte (I think she was maybe 10 or 12) who set the altar for communion with wonderful dignity. I loved it!
Members of the congregation (and clergy) went out of their way to welcome visitors and make them at home. All in all, it was a good worship experience (unlike my experience last year at our National Cathedral, which was one of the poorer worship experiences I’ve ever had — off hand I can think of only one worse). I would go back again, to Christ Church, if I’m ever in the area.
If you are interested in learning more about Christ Church, click here.