Our common worship lies at the core of our Franciscan community. It is where we enter into our relationships with Christ and where we find commonality in our love of God.
As a member of the Adult Choir, I most often attend our 11 a.m. service. Earlier on Sunday, we offer a lovely, predictable 7:45 a.m. service with a quiet and traditional liturgy. By contrast, the 9:00 a.m. service is often unpredictable as energetic children liven the atmosphere.
Worship at St. Francis is simple but more uplifting than any other I have experienced. Though we love our Episcopal liturgy—Rites I and II—we do not indulge in “bells and smells.”
Some of the special aspects of our worship involve Children’s Chapel held for younger children at the 9:00 service, our sometimes “fun” repartees with the rector during announcements, prayers for anniversaries and birthdays at the end of announcements, and our “sung” Lord’s Prayer at the 9:00 and 11:00 services.
Most important to me, however, is the sense of Christ that I experience when I worship with those who are my Franciscan family. Because of the way the choir is situated, I can look out over the congregation every Sunday. So often when I look at my fellow parishioners, I feel electrified by my sense of Christ in them. They lift me up; they are an important part of my connection to God. They are why I want to worship here.
The special services at St. Francis mirror the stages of our lives with the feelings commensurate for each, from the celebration of birth at baptism to funeral and memorial services, with a poignant review of those memories at our All Saints Evensong—when we watch a solemn presentation of photos of those in the community of saints who have touched our lives. At other Evensongs held through the year, we honor the beautiful traditions of our church with warm and spiritually rich services, which the choir robes in sounds worthy of a Cathedral and enlightens any soul willing to be open. Just as with the stages of our lives, one checks off the moments but can never begin to express the depths, the moments of pathos and joy, the immeasurable value of sharing them with a community in which one knows belonging.
For me, the road traveled during Holy Week, feeling the power of the story, moving from one service to the next that features the heavy burden and the darkness of those days into the light of Easter makes the exhilaration of Easter more magnificent, more wonder-full, more uplifting. It is no wonder that this journey inspired some of the greatest music we know; it is the story of Jesus, but it is also a story about each of us.
There is so much more that we do. We don’t forget days such as Pentecost, Trinity Sunday or the Day of Ascension, nor do we forget those in need of our hands and prayers with a monthly healing service. On St. Francis Day we celebrate the Eucharist outside in our “green room” with our pets in chaotic attendance, blessed they be.
After 38 years as a Franciscan, I continue on a spiritual journey to develop a closer relationship with God. Over these years, I have come to rely on sermons that both inform and challenge me. I appreciate sermons preached by those rectors who use their biblical education to present a deeper understanding of God’s Word and who are able to apply that understanding to everyday life. A good sermon can also help place Bible readings in context by providing insight and information to encourage more people to read the Bible, to be excited by their understanding of it, and to come to love it and its Creator more.
We are an educated, eager to learn, politically diverse group with a preference for avoiding political discussions. We are enthusiastic about the variety of activities we sponsor. Since retiring three years ago, I now have time to enjoy church activities including outreach, women’s Bible study, contemplative prayer, and the prayer circle. This congregation is, to me, a treasured second family.
I am a 40 year old father of three. My wife and I first visited St. Francis seven years ago when we were looking for an Episcopal church near our home. We found our local parish leaned very low and liberal, and so found we were more attracted to the more centered approach at St. Francis. While we have enjoyed many fine sermons there, I don’t believe the liturgy always requires a forceful sermon to accomplish its purpose. That said, a good sermon for many is the centerpiece of the service and the most effective tool for drawing us closer to God—for some, more so than the readings or music.
For those who come to church looking for direction, the sermon is the opportunity to hear in plain English, “look—this is what you’re supposed to do!” From my limited view, I think giving a good sermon is a very challenging skill to develop, and no matter how theologically cogent the sermon may be, delivery is important. Like acting or the other expressive arts, a good preacher draws on the sublime, and I don’t think that skill can be quantified except in fuzzy aesthetic terms—you know it when you hear it. In looking for a new rector we need to pay attention to this very special quality and, recognizing how rare it is, give it due consideration.
My first connection with St. Francis was brief. In 2002 my husband and I lived for several months in Reston. A friend introduced me to the church, and I was drawn to the quilting group. Shortly thereafter, my husband and I moved to Michigan. Three years later, we returned to the area, and I found myself attending services at St. Francis again.
The Altar Guild has been my focus, providing a quiet, rewarding and behind-the-scenes ministry. From Sunday services to weddings, funerals, Easter and Christmas, the guild functions cooperatively and with flexibility, fulfilling its responsibilities cheerfully and willingly. I have found the guild members to be a special and supportive group in many ways.
I have also found that the natural setting provided by our property enhances our worship at St. Francis. The simple sanctuary and large windows bring the outdoors inside, reminding us of the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.
I’ve been a member of St. Francis since I was born. I’ve had amazing opportunities here, especially in music, which has become a big part of my life. But when I look back on growing up in this church, I will always remember taking part in the Passion Mime. When I was little, I watched it year after year on Palm Sunday, and then finally I was old enough to take part. That was a special day. I also really enjoy taking part in the worship service as an acolyte. I come home after each Sunday service with a lot to think about.