Heading Toward All Saints
Those of us who live in the more traditional, liturgical tradition are anticipating our All Saints worship this weekend. My personal tradition in the congregations that I serve is to observe All Saint’s on the Sunday following the 1st. This Sunday, we’ll be gathering for communion and remembering those in our community that have died during the past year.
I sometimes think that one advantage those of us who pastor “established” churches have over new church planters is our connection to the saints. What I mean by this is that there is a certain perspective obtained when one is regularly confronted with those saints who have and are in the process of going to be with God. The new church guys usually have to deal with deaths as a crisis situation; death as tragedy. Yet, even though I regret the loss of every one that I love and pastor, there is also a certain hope and building of faith when one is present with those who have lived full lives and are ready to die well. Likewise, standing in the tradition of 130 years of saints that have gone before, trying to live out their legacy, is a great responsibility and privilege. Sometimes I wish I could see in the future and see what Willow Creek, or Solomon’s Porch, or Cedar Ridge, or Church of the Resurrection will look like in 130 years. What will those churches have learned. What sacred cows will they be struggling under.
My practice for All Saints is to light candles in honor of those covenanted members who have died in the past year, and to read the names of any saint that a member of our congregations wants read. There is a power in naming, and I try to connect with that power whenever I can.
As I think about the Communion of Saints, I’m always reminded of my visit to the Eastern Orthodox Church in Atlanta. Of course, the most striking thing about the archetecture is the huge painting of Christ on the ceiling, the pantocroator, looking down on God’s people as they worship. But what I remember most was the group of icons at the front of the church. The priest who was showing us around told us that worship never ends in that space. No, the Orthodox believe that the saints keep on worshipping in that space even when living humans aren’t present. Thus, the sanctuary is truly a sacred space, a space where worship happens 24 hours a day.