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We shape our gatherings and our gatherings shape us back

In my first year of seminary, I took a class called Intro to Worship, and instead of diving straight into the prayer book, we spent the first six weeks talking about the anthropology of human ritual. Episcopalians are not the first people to gather together in sacrament and in worship, and we sure won't be the last. And it matters that we talk not just about what Episcopalians do when they get together, but what people do when they get together and how the shape of our gatherings in turn shape us.


The capacity of our rituals to shape us go beyond just the words that we say. We get to look at the shape and setup of the space we gather in, who speaks and who leads, what we do with our bodies, where our attention is directed (and not directed), and what we actually do. In my work as young adult missioner, I have the vantage point of witnessing and leading in the principal weekly gathering for a number of different communities around town, and it's worth thinking about how each of our gatherings vary in the ways they shape us.


The principal weekly gathering for the St. George's community is worship in our sanctuary with music and singing and Eucharist and sermon. For members of the Table community, it's gathering under tents in Market Square and giving away (and receiving) food. For our UMW campus ministry, we gather every Tuesday and have dinner and discussion together in a living room in a circle of couches. For our young adult bible study, it's a zoom call every Wednesday evening from our own couches and armchairs and desk as we ask silly intro questions before diving into scripture for an hour.


In each of these contexts, something different is happening, and the folks who gather are learning something different (and important) about who God is and how God calls us together. And of course in each of these contexts, something similar is happening too, as wherever two or three are gathered together, God will be in our midst.


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