Today is the First Sunday in Lent, which is a time to prepare ourselves through inward repentance and outward acts of love to celebrate the joy of Easter Day. In order to mark this shift into a new season, there are some changes to the normal patterns in our liturgies. This morning, for example, the 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. Choral Eucharists will begin with the singing of the Great Litany in Procession. On the following Sundays in Lent, these services will begin with the Decalogue (i.e., the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai), followed by the Confession of Sin. All of this helps to shape how we reflect on our spiritual lives.
Another change is something that actually follows more closely the rubrics (i.e., the instructions) in the Book of Common Prayer. Although there are lots of options that are allowed for ending a eucharistic service, the rubrics never really envision the dismissal separated from the blessing. Palmer, like many other Episcopal parishes, has most often offered the blessing from the altar and then sung the final hymn before the Deacon sends us out into the world with words from the back of the church. This Lent, however, we will use the pattern in the Book of Common Prayer with the blessing and the dismissal given at the altar before the last hymn. In this way, the procession at the end of our worship will be leading all of us out into the world in response to the words of the Deacon. We go on our way rejoicing, singing even as we take up our cross and follow Jesus. So once that hymn is finished and the organist begins the postlude, we are free to leave the pews and continue our journey of faith as we cross the threshold of the church onto Main Street.