At the turn of the year, we sat down with our kids and asked them how they wanted to pursue a closer relationship with God in 2017. My daughter, Clare, said that she wanted to pray for the nations at dinner every day. My son, Luke, said that he wanted to wake up every morning to pray the daily office with me. I said Sure, thinking that like most New Year’s declarations it would not last the week. But my eight-year-old set his alarm clock at 6:15 a.m. and has been with me almost every morning in 2017 (well at least Monday through Friday; piety has its limits). This has made skipping Morning Prayer impossible for me. Yes, my son has encouraged me to pray more!
Sometime in February, Clare decided that she wanted to wake up too. The psalms move a little slower now and the responses are more halting, but we are happy to have her. So, most mornings you can find the three of us downstairs on the couch, usually groggy and sometimes grumpy, praying the office. This may seem like an exercise in a parent bragging on the faith of his children (we take the victories when we can). But it is not. Something deeper stirs in me when I see that my children have for the most part memorized the creeds, prayers, and confessions. It is a vindication of Anglicanism. It is why I came into this tradition in the first place.
Let me explain. As I neared the beginning of seminary, I realized that I knew how to bear witness to Christianity. I could explain to someone who Jesus is and why he matters. I could proclaim the glories of the cross and speak passionately about how Jesus changed my life. But I could not really articulate how to live as a Christian. Do not get me wrong. I could tell you all the rules (I was a Baptist, after all). I could tell people to do what I had been told to do as a youth: Read the Bible over and over (preferably in the king’s English) and try not to sin. But on the practices and disciplines and patterns of the Christian life, I was lost. As much as I loved the Baptist church, there was a certain sameness — different from liturgical consistency — that left me without a guide. Most Sundays we heard the gospel rightly proclaimed. We were urged to turn away from sin and turn toward Jesus. Amen! But rarely were we told how to accomplish this turning.
I am converted. I am here. Now what?
I encountered my “now what” at college. There I was introduced to the Anglican tradition. I learned about the calendar, the Eucharist, the morning and evening office, the saints, the fasts, and the feasts. I was introduced to a Christian life that seemed whole and full. I thought to myself, here is a life that I can offer to my congregations and friends who want practical advice on how to be a Christian. What do you do now that you are converted? Say these prayers, keep these fasts, walk with Jesus through the year as the Church has for over a millennium, and do so in community.
Yes, read your Bible. But also hear it in the context of intercessions, creeds, and confession. Yes, try not to sin, but here are some examples of Christians (the saints) who have struggled with what you are struggling with and have overcome. They are our brothers and sisters, our guides. The confession of sin is not simply a confession of sin; it helps me realize what my sins are and reminds me every day that I depend on God for forgiveness.
I had always expected to tell these things to my congregation. I looked forward to instructing the newly converted or those who returned to the Church about the power of this tradition to deepen our love for Jesus. But I had not considered how the liturgy and the tradition would shape the faith of my home. I realize now that when I became a priest in this tradition, I did not simply choose the style of worship on Sunday. I set the course for the worship of God in the home.
There are many former evangelicals and new believers who are drawn to this tradition. This is good and we are happy to have you. If you are black, I am especially happy that you are around. Come on in, the water is fine. But can I say that if you want to experience the fullness of what you are drawn to on Sunday, let this tradition invade your home. Let it seep into the prayers around the dinner table, not as an end in itself, but so that Christ our joy and hope might be formed in us.