Five St. John’s parishioners reflect on the meaning of worship for them. Their reflections continue the theme of the article “Why Worship?” on page 3 in the December Record. As you read this Q&A and the article, perhaps you too will consider the meaning of worship for you.
By Janet Johnson
Worship is a two-way conversation between God and me with prayer. Those conversations include adoration and praise, thanksgiving for the blessings I am surrounded by daily, confession of things not done right with an affirmation to fix them, and petition for the protection of others I know with immediate needs. In addition, the music, whether vocals accompanied by organ, bells, brass, guitars, or something else altogether, brings special meaning to the service and a sense of community with others present at the worship. The sermon brings an understanding of the daily lectionary or other topics for me to carry away. When Communion is a part of the worship, I come together with family, friends, and those I don’t know to the Lord’s table – a special fellowship.
I chose Episcopal worship specifically because of a statistics course. A statistics course? Let me explain. When I attended graduate school, one of the required courses was biometrics, a statistics methodology. A help session was offered at 10 a.m. every Sunday, which conflicted with the worship service of the denomination I attended at that time. I felt that I needed the statistics help session more than I needed that specific church service. I learned that the Episcopal Church just off campus offered an 8 a.m. worship service – an answer for what I was missing. I attended this service regularly, was hooked, joined, and have continued with the Episcopal Church long after the statistics course ended. The weekly worship and Book of Common Prayer brought a renewal for me never experienced before. After graduation and acceptance of my position at Virginia Tech, I met Jim who lived in the same apartment complex and happened to be a life-long Episcopalian. The rest is a 47-year history that continues to this day.
Janet is a retired professor of Human Nutrition and Foods and Dean Emerita of Human Sciences and Education at Virginia Tech. Jim is retired Director of Virginia Cooperative Extension Service and was an agricultural agent in several counties before moving to Blacksburg. Jim and Janet moved from Blacksburg to Brandon Oaks in 2013 and enjoy St. John’s, the retirement community of Brandon Oaks, and easy travel by train to visit daughter, son, daughter-in-law, and 2 grandchildren in the Pennsylvania – New Jersey areas. Janet is a Sunday School teacher and Jim made the wooden crosses for our Sunday School classrooms.
By Donna Repa
I have been a regular attendee of the Gathering service for well over 10 years. Worship, and particularly the contemporary style of the Gathering, is very important to me. So much so that my husband George has often heard me say that I really hate to miss church. If possible, I like to get to church a little early so that I can pray while the Gathering Band is rehearsing. I find that the combination of contemporary music, relaxed atmosphere, and the time of day calms my mind and allows me to reach a contemplative state that is difficult for me to achieve elsewhere. To use a sports metaphor, the setting puts me “in the zone.” The sermon helps me to put life into a better perspective as does the sense of community fostered by interacting with fellow congregants during the following meal; I eat with people that were once strangers but now are considered friends. In short, worship leaves me with a sense of peace that does “pass all understanding” and rekindles my relationship with God. I leave a better person.
By George Repa
Worship has held an important place for me over the decades. Before we moved to Virginia, most of my work life with a national hospital management company required Donna and me to live in smaller, more rural communities and to move across the country every three to five years. Typically, my assignments were management contracts with smaller hospitals that were failing. My job was to set them right on a path of recovery and growth before I was moved to another new management contract elsewhere in the country to begin the process anew.
These were stressful challenges. My work was often in smaller cloistered communities that didn’t always revel in entertaining an outside company and Yankee-born transient with new and different ideas and business strategies. I developed a deeply felt need to find a spiritual peace and foundation upon which to base my professional and personal life.
Following our marriage 41 years ago, and in the years since, Donna and I both found a common ground that melded our diverse church backgrounds in the fold of the Episcopal Church. We have found and continue to find solace in the Episcopal Church. Most often during our relocations, the Episcopal churches we attended were ‘mission’ churches or barely in a self-supporting role at best, but they were all vibrant and meaningful, welcoming and spiritually nurturing.
In each church in their own way, and especially with the talented clergy at St. John’s Episcopal Church over our last 10 years here, I have been nurtured and inspired. Excellent sermons on the meaning of the scriptures and teachings of Christ guide me in my life’s path. In our worship services I connect church history, tradition, scripture, and reason to my own life and circumstances. And this connection is very meaningful to me, and what keeps me returning to worship.
Donna and George faithfully attend the Gathering service and Sunday Suppers. They have to adult twins sons Joe and Mike.
By Ben and Laura Garden
If you asked our three-year-old son why we worship on Sundays, he would most likely say it’s for the free cookie. Hopefully with age, he will learn that it is much deeper. It is amazing what that hour each week provides for us. We are able to give thanks for our many blessings, to ask forgiveness for any shortcomings, and to reset our minds to have a more positive outlook on the week ahead. It is a devoted hour each week to be joyous, meditative, and reflective. A chance to re-channel any negative thinking and be reminded of what is important. Further, it is a time to experience fellowship and be part of an uplifting community that inspires you to be a better person throughout the other six days of the week. Participating in the Eucharist binds us in community and is an outward expression of our faith with those with whom we share our beliefs. It is important to us to show our son and future children the value of being part of a church community, with worship being at the center. And yes, even if right now that involves a little bribe with a free cookie.
Ben teaches 8th-grade social studies at William Byrd Middle School. He also runs a fishing camp for kids called Virginia Outside during the summer. Laura is an endodontist at Roanoke Endodontics in Salem. They have one son who just turned four and a baby due in early February. They both are new Sunday School teachers and members of the Parents’ Journey Group.