I’m at the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real. This afternoon we had a Mariachi Mass, in Spanish and in English, going back and forth. My Spanish is rudimentary at best — think Dora the Explorer — so it was a real adventure. But the songs in Spanish had easy melodies, and the bulletin had the Spanish and English side by side, so I could follow along and understand what was being said.
Now, I am very traditional when it comes to my liturgy. I’ll take Rite One, please, and the quieter the service the better. A little bit of acapella around the altar during the communion is acceptable, but I prefer quiet so that I can reflect on the scriptures and homily and prayers. You get the picture. I want my church service to be just so.
I wasn’t always this way, but the spoken (not sung) Rite 1 service has been a spiritual source of constancy through all the changes and turmoil of my life. I can enjoy services that are different, but too much singing and I want to run to the nearest Quaker meeting house for some peace and quiet. Too many differences in the prayers and responses, and I start to feel agitated.
So you can imagine my trepidation when the homily talked about how tradition was holding back our diocese. Not having Spanish services limits our appeal to the largely bi-lingual community we live in. By holding on to an English-only liturgy, we are withering away.
I know all about withering away. Already at my church the Rite 1 service is the smallest Sunday service. When one or two of us die, we’re down 10 or 15 percent. In the church at large, Rite 1 folks are a shrinking minority. In a large gathering, when the priest calls us to prayer:
“The peace of the Lord be always with you,”
I’m often the only one responding “And with thy spirit”, from the Rite 1 liturgy. Nearly everyone else is responding “And also with you.”
This afternoon was no different. When we got to that part of the service, Bishop Mary said, “The peace of the Lord be always with you.” The room chorused, “And also with you.” Sigh.
But then I glanced over to the Spanish side of the service, and suddenly I was filled with joy.
La paz del Senor sea siempre con ustedes.
Y con tu espiritu.
The language was different. But the words were the right words. “And with thy spirit.” There, outside my comfort zone, I found the words that have been my comfort zone all these years. How amazing is that.