By Lauren K. Bush
“Many of us worship in beautiful churches such as this. And it is right to do so, we should worship God in beautiful places.” He preaches from the ornate, adorned wooden pulpit, opposite a carved eagle lectern, in front of more ornate stained wood panels surrounding the decorative stone altar behind the central-facing choir stalls full of red and white-robed singers, under the pipes of the impressive organ, medieval hanging lights, beautifully exposed wood trusses, and stained glass windows so renowned that they have their own tour. He preaches to a sanctuary full of musicians, organists attaining to a certain pedigree, who no doubt often play in churches such as this.
I sit in the choir, at the end of the row tonight because I have no voice, but want to be present as my time with the choir nears its close. (And let’s be honest, I love an opportunity to enjoy Evensong…even if I can’t song.) I hear the words, “We should worship God in beautiful places,” and my first instinct is to bristle and want to be judgmental, assuming that the issued imperative suggests ‘fancy’ churches with impressive organs, renowned stained glass, and resources to pay choir staff members. Instead, I close my eyes and am transported to Woodruff Park on a Sunday afternoon for Eucharist with Church of the Common Ground.
As I hear the waterfall behind me, I turn my face upward and can feel the sunlight dancing on my closed eyelids as it shines down through the spring leaves on the trees. I sense people around me and open my eyes to see beloved faces milling about, getting coffee, joking and laughing with each other, getting caught up on the latest gossip. Mary, Liz and Eddie coordinate parts of the service, a member from our visiting church brings up a box of lunches. The streetcar bell dings, and sounds of lazy Sunday afternoon traffic buzz like occasional bees in the air around us.
Yes, it is good to worship God in beautiful places. It is right to do so. My prayer is that all who seek God may know that God is found in all places. Sometimes the beauty of place is in architecture, sometimes it is in people, sometimes it is in nature. The beauty of where we choose to worship is arbitrary except as how it is found in the eyes of the Beloved – our eyes. Are they open? Are we seeking? Are we looking with awe and wonder at all that is around us?
I challenge you to see where you find beauty today, and think about how you decide that it is beautiful. I challenge you – no, I dare you to look into the faces of each person you pass for at least one full day and see God in each one. I implore you then to be still and know God as you remember the souls you’ve encountered through your waking hours.
It is right to worship God in beautiful places. It is right to worship God anywhere and everywhere, giving thanks for the Glory and Wonder of all aspects of Creation and the Life we’ve been blessed to receive.