We visited Saint Francis of Assisi Anglican Mission in Danville today.
A small group of faithful Anglicans meet in a converted (no pun intended) Women’s Club on Sundays to pray and celebrate the Eucharist. Using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, with its liturgy that goes back to the sixteenth century, the simple setting is transformed with the texture and reverence of Elizabethan words and syntax.
As we entered we picked up our hymnals in a box by the door. We sang as the deacon and two acolytes, one holding the crucifix high, one bearing a flaming candle, processed down the center aisle. We prayed together, kneeling on portable cushions. We sat on folding chairs to hear the epistle read. The altar, I knew, would be removed later and stored, for the premises do not belong to the congregation.
But the tabernacle was on the altar, the red candle burning, announcing the Real Presence of Christ. Tall tapers stood at either end of the white draped altar, a substantial crucifix above, reminding us of the real sacrifice of Christ two thousand years ago and once again today. And with sacrifice, comes resurrection and new life. This we knew and believed, and recited thunderously in the Nicene Creed, of one mind, one accord, as the Holy Spirit descended upon us, weaving among us, binding us.
Deacon Brown preached on prayer, for it was Rogation Sunday (from the Latin rogare, to ask), and with thoughtful phrasing explained how prayer was not only our spontaneous words to God, but indeed Psalms are prayer as well, and the liturgy itself is prayer. Prayer is our life, a way of living with God.
We prayed the liturgy and received Christ with all of the solemnity of a grand cathedral as the language of ritual, the poetry of liturgy, ensured a sacred silence before God. Worship. Adoration.
The deacon prayed a benediction from the back of the room and the candles were snuffed out. Soon the chairs would be folded and the books packed away. We rose to greet one another over coffee, to mingle as the Body of Christ, to love.
In this simple setting the Great Liturgy had been offered and we had partaken of eternity.
Saint Francis of Assisi Anglican Mission, 242 Linda Mesa, Danville, California; Sundays: 10:00 Holy Communion