Holy Interruption

The Nave Altar in the Main Space of Liverpool Cathedral set for the 12.05 weekday Eucharist.

I was recently invited by the Dean of Liverpool to blog on prayerforliverpool.com. I’d like to share this blog with the readers of this blog as well. To see the post on Prayer for Liverpool, Liverpool Cathedral’s prayer blog during lockdown, follow the link above where you’ll find reflections by Cathedral folks three times a week, as well as resources for engagement with the Sunday Lectionary Gospel readings.

One of the duties that the Dean handed to me once the Cathedral emerged from lockdown was to help set up for the 12.05 weekday Eucharist. Since we opened, these take place now in the Main Space at the Nave Altar, mostly because it’s the most accessible in terms of wheelchair accommodation as well as social distancing precautions.

The practice of celebrating the Eucharist in the Main Space has taken on a new meaning. The main Space is arguably the busiest place in the Cathedral any day of the week. So at the service, it’s common to have people sat down within the barriers for the service, as well as roaming around or standing beyond them. Folks are always welcome to join us, and if I’m standing near the entrance of the barriers (which are there to facilitate social distancing as folks move around the Cathedral), I try to gesture to any and all that they are welcome to come and sit down and participate.

Something special occurs when our liturgy, our expression of our faith and the practices that to which our faith beckons us, is flung in front of the public eye like it is now in the Cathedral. Beyond anything else, I think it’s a mark of our hospitality that we worship centrally in our building and try to make other people, regardless of who they are or where they come from, as welcome as possible in our worship.

But I will make a confession: at first, I was suspicious. It almost felt rude to be doing all of this “religiousy” stuff in a space where during the week, secular tourists and casual visitors enjoy the art and architecture guided by our expert staff and volunteers. I felt as if we were interrupting their fun.

I’ve come to realise that sometimes, God is at his most poignant when He interrupts. Abraham, Moses, even St. Paul all attest to a surprising (and even unwelcome) intrusion by God into their lives that brought them to faith and arguably changed the course of their and our lives entirely.

Sometimes, that’s absolutely necessary. If we’re sunk in a life that feels like it has no meaning, or is bereft of love, or absolutely overwhelmed by the reality of the sinister chaos that each daily news briefing always seems to bring—the God in whom we believe has the power to interrupt our fear and both show us his love and call us to action.

I will never forget the time I confessed some trepidation leading the noontime prayers and announcing the service at the lectern one day. I said to Dean Sue, “I feel as if I’m interrupting them.” Her reply was to, “Remember that they might need to be interrupted.”

Liverpool Cathedral is a place of encounter, built by the people, for the people, to the glory of God. We can draw folks in with impressive architecture and scads of history, even a nice cuppa and slice of cake (though not at the moment for the latter unfortunately). But most importantly, we can then show visitors what all the glorious complexity of a Cathedral points to: the reality of God at work in human lives, who has more power than we can comprehend or imagine.

And a God who is never afraid to interrupt us for our own good.

Thanks for reading this update on my missionary blog! I’m a missionary of The Episcopal Church, serving in Liverpool, UK. Make sure to subscribe at the bottom of the home page to get an email when I next post an update. God bless, and thank you!

Eager to read more? Check out the “Meet the YASCers” page of the website of the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) of the Episcopal Church to find the blogs of my missionary colleagues: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/YASC/meet-yascers.

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2 Comments

    1. Thanks, Rick! A lot of Liverpool was bombed in the blitz–but not talked a lot about. The parish of St. Luke was bombed and remains a ruin in the city, not far from the Cathedral. (The Cathedral also lost several windows, but somehow the main bits of the building weren’t touched. Several neighbouring buildings were lost though.)

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