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Finding God in high-church worship

08.08.16 | Cox Chapel | by Rev. Victoria Robb Powers

Finding God in high-church worship

    When I first entered liturgical worship, it was like learning a new language. But, with time, it became so familiar to me. The ritual and repetition of the service soaked deep into my bones. Because culture demands that everything be new and fresh, we often think that what’s ancient isn’t relevant, but God precedes even time.

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    This service engages in congregational singing and praying, hearing and reflecting on God’s Word in the scriptures and preaching, and celebrating God’s loving and transforming presence in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

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    Since as early as I can remember, I’ve always loved the church. Anytime the doors were open, I wanted to be inside. To my parents, it was obvious that I would eventually serve the church in some capacity.

    When I was fifteen, I felt called to vocational ministry. After high school, I left for college to study philosophy and religion. After that I was off to seminary where I poured myself into courses on biblical studies, church history, pastoral care, and theology.

    And yet, somewhere amidst my studies, I lost the experience of God.

    I’d return to worship hoping to encounter God, and I’d leave empty. I sympathized with John Wesley, who so valued religious experience that he said he’d trade a thousand reasons for just one experience with God. I, too, felt that I’d gladly trade all of my theological concepts of God, as beautiful and profound as I though they were, for one true experience with God.

    When my husband and I got married we moved to Dallas and began the search for a church home. We stumbled upon a church that had a reputation for investing in young people called to the ministry. The worship service was high church and featured various liturgical elements like the doxology, passing of the peace, communion, prayers of confession, and so forth. At first, so many of these things were unfamiliar to me. I grew up in contemporary worship. I’d never even sung from a hymnal before. I honestly did not expect to encounter God in this type of service.

    But I was wrong.

    When I first entered liturgical worship, it was like learning a new language. But, with time, it became so familiar to me. The ritual and repetition of the service soaked deep into my bones. Because culture demands that everything be new and fresh, we often think that what’s ancient isn’t relevant, but God precedes even time.  

    The literal definition of liturgy is the work of the people, and that is what I experienced. Worship became about community again. It became about participation. Worship became about unity and Scripture. Through the liturgy, I found genuine worship. I found unity. I found the gospel.

    I found God.

    The 8:30 am Cox Chapel service at HPUMC was calling my name. The stained glass windows, the liturgy, the sacrament, and the hymns breathed new life into my faith. The Apostle’s Creed sustains me.  On the days I don’t feel like I believe, the people carry the faith for me. When my heart feels distant from God, I come to this service and let the order of worship tell me what to do – to stand, to sing, to confess, to kneel.

    And as my body follows along with the service, my heart begins to follow. In these moments, I know what it means to truly experience God. 


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