Another church today. This one is promising.
First, I should say that I conciously tried to change my heart with regard to this process. My mother gave me an excellent suggestion that I should enter these churches, not with the intention of discerning whether they are the 'right' church, but with the intention to worship. So, I felt much less judging and much more open to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Church of the Epiphany, in Providence, is only a few blocks from my house, but in many ways, it felt worlds away. It is in an economically depressed part of the city that is, not coincidentally, one of the most vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, with immigrants from all over the world living in close community. The church itself has clearly fallen on hard times. The buildings are in disrepair. The main church building is, from the outside, a falling down, vinyl clad orphan in the midst of urban blight. There is a little paper sign on one door announcing the mass schedule, but other than that, no signage that I could see.
Once inside, though, I realized immediately that I was in a consecrated and holy space. It had an almost monastic quality to it... dark, but light, empty, but full of life and spirit. The pews had been rearranged from their former positions into a kind of round, with a lecturn in the midst of them. A couple of chairs sat at one end and the alter at the other. The former Sanctuary at the East end of the church was in darkness. I was initially confused about where to sit (As the choir pews were still in the chancel) but the priest came up to me immediately and welcomed me and indicated where I could sit.
Like the St. Francis mass at St. Teresa's, this felt very warm and informal, yet very reverent. There were probably only 10 or 12 people in the congregation today, most of whom seemed to be African or perhaps Carribean. (I recognized one name as being Nigerian...) The priest was a beautiful, soulful woman in her mid or late 50's, I'd guess. I felt a complete sense of calm in her presence. It was remarkable, really.
The entire service, save for the readings and the homily, were sung or chanted. There were several influences, from plainsong psalmody to Zimbabean allelujiahs. The opening music was a sweet tune played by a lovely young woman on an alto recorder. That was, other than a drum, the only instrument at the service.
Throughout the service, I felt more and more at home. I joined in, missing notes and singing off key at some points, but feeling unembarrassed, as I was singing to my Beloved, and never lost sight of that.
During the Eucharist, the cup and bread (and it was real bread) were passed, person to person, each in turn calling the next by name. It was very powerful. Finally, in the end, a parting song and then, from the kitchen, snacks and drinks appeared and joined the consecrated bread on the alter.
What a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning. More than anything, the experience felt like I imagine a house church would be like. I was in God's house, today. And I felt right at home.
Thank you, Beloved, for bringing me to this peace-filled, joyful place today.