While you all were worshipping at Christ Church in Alexandria on Sunday, I was celebrating the Eucharist at Christ Church in Bethel, Vermont. This is the church my parents attend in the summer, and my dad, a retired Episcopal priest, often helps them out by taking the Sunday services. Once a summer, they get the Gillespie tag-team – I am invited to celebrate while my dad preaches.

Like our Christ Church in Alexandria, the Bethel Christ Church is also built in the colonial style. The congregation was established in 1794, but the building was constructed in 1823. Same beautiful graveyard in the green field behind the church, same gates on the pews, same uncomfortable seats! Same message boards up front with the words of the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. But the church in Bethel is a tiny country church, whereas ours is definitely a city church. They use their building only in the summer because it has no heat or plumbing (fortunately, they do have a port-o-potty behind the church!). Thirty people worshipping is a big Sunday for them and every single person volunteers in some way or else the church would not survive. You can feel that in the worship. They are the church, not the visiting clergy. It’s quite powerful.

Both of these Christ Churches have white-washed interiors and clear windows with much of the original glass. In many churches, it is the darkness and colored glass windows that help to create a sense of mystery, but in these two churches, it is the purity of the natural light, the direct relationship with the sunlight or the lack thereof, that seems to connect us with something larger than ourselves. Clearly, for colonial Episcopalians, it was about the Word of God being proclaimed and preached and sung and absorbed in unadorned spaces that was of utmost importance. We just heard the Romans reading, “The word is near you.” Indeed, it seemed so on Sunday.

Where are you worshipping this summer?

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