Places, practices and people form us. For many years, I looked at representations of the saints, recited the words of the liturgy and listened to the words of spiritual leaders. Sometimes I was bored, sometimes the words were tedious and made no sense and sometimes the presence of God shined through. Faith is more than cerebral. Faith is incarnate. Faith involves the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Even if God does not dwell in buildings built by human hands, humans are shaped by the physicality of faith. This has always been the scandal of the Word made flesh and the nemesis of creation shunning gnosticism, past and present.
My faith was shaped in no small part by the visual beauty and the familiar words of prayer of years of worshiping at All Saints Episcopal Church and Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ. My faith was also shaped by the people who I came to know as teachers and counselors – Paul Urbano, Ken Whitney, Anton Renna S.J., Al Miller S.J., “Sister” Mary, and the small prayer group that met Monday nights. They were able to listen and support a teenager trying to get through some tough times. I was also able to witness the Spirit firing up the church through the preaching & teaching of Dennis Bennett, Terry Fulham and Francis MacNutt. Those were years of hope about what the church could become that turned to disappointment as the ECUSA drifted farther and farther into irrelevance. However, over the years God was at work and I was able to encounter worship scholar Robert Webber, the Alpha evangelism program and most recently Wellspring in Englewood, CO an Anglican congregation that combines sound preaching, God glorifying music and a liturgy in which the words are prayed with sincerity and passion. Ancient & future worship is alive!