The beauty of the sacramental Church

A year ago today on All Saints’ Day, I was given a thin, white candle. It was a membership gift at my Anglican church, which I’d begun attending at the end of September.

I can now say that I’ve completed a whole year in the Church calendar, since my time with the Catholic church left out a summer, and I didn’t participate there as fully as I do here in my Anglican church. My time in that Catholic community in Denver was a gift of grace from the Lord, and my continuing time with my current Anglican church has been one of beauty.

I most love the sacramental nature of the Anglican church. Partaking in the Eucharist each week is especially a blessing. Since adolescence, I’ve been drawn to the Table, and my views on its power have evolved. I now accept it as “the mystery of faith.”

(You may remember that my favorite Eucharistic hymn is “One Bread, One Body” by John Michael Talbot. The Catholic tradition is admirably rich with such hymns.)

Every Sunday, I am reminded of Christ’s love for me through the Body, broken for the forgiveness of sins. In the bitterness of the wine, I taste his agony in his blood shed for me.

What love is this that You gave Your life for me/ and made a way for me to know You?/ And I confess You’re always enough for me/ You’re all I need.

Kari Jobe, “What Love Is This
At the sacramental table, deacon and priest hold up the cup and bread in a front of stained glass windows
Eucharist. PC: KSB

The Anglican Church’s expression in my neighborhood church is much more Anglo than I’d prefer, but it looks different at our more diverse Bridgeport location and even from the Swahili service I visited in Nairobi to the English language one there. All of them carry the beautiful liturgy, impressing the ancient Christian creeds and God’s living words into our hearts with each repetition.

In this tradition, Christ’s incarnation is remembered through the attention to humanity in sensory details of each service: Our eyes are drawn to the tall cross during the procession, the Bible held high in the reading of the Gospel, the lit candles up front, the reflection of the crucifix visible in the cup, the Body being broken before us, the banners that change color to highlight the season of the liturgical year, and in the case of our church, the stained glass windows.

My church doesn’t use incense, so we don’t have a scent component, but the Eucharist itself is a weekly way to taste and see that the Lord is good, as detailed above.

Sound plays a large role in our experience through the music, preaching, prayers, and readings. The voices of tiny children mingle with those of the priest’s; men and women read and lead together; and on a good week, the reverberant accordion and melodic fiddle supplement the rich keys, rhythmic guitar, and sacred drums.

six musicians play worship in a beautiful church with banners and stained glass
One of Cornerstone Anglican’s worship teams leads music at the 2020 Revive Conference. PC: Cornerstone Anglican Church

Regardless of virtual or physical presence, the postures of standing then sitting or kneeling at various points in the service keeps people engaged. The sign of the cross is a constant way to remember Christ’s blessing upon us as his friends.

Finally, for those physically in the service during this pandemic, the community is made tangible. While touch is a rarity these days, it is a helpful reminder of our humanity, which Christ humbled himself to take on as he experienced suffering and glory and ultimately victory.

I’ve always found the Church to be beautiful, and my appreciation for its diverse expressions has only grown with time. Today, on All Saints’ Day, I invite you to reflect on this as we remember those who have built up the Church, the Body of Christ.

May the peace of Christ be with you!