Humble Access

This poem starts with a quotation from the Anglican/Episcopalian prayer book communion service (for those who do not know that tradition). It is, actually, not used that much these days, at least in the churches I have visited, but I remember it well from my youth.


The Last Supper, Cheriton Fitzpaine

The Last Supper, Cheriton Fitzpaine

We do not presume

To come to this, thy table,

Trusting in our own righteousness.

But in our own respectability,

Well, that seems proper.


How well we create

That sense of reverential awe

With our music

And our beautiful words.


How easily we forget

That you always preferred to dine

With the prostitute and leper,

The sick and outcast.

Or that the first communion was shared

With a tax collector,

A zealot,

And a bunch of smelly, common fishermen!


We hear your story about the feast

Where the empty places were filled

With the riff-raff from the streets

And it doesn’t occur to us

That you actually meant it.


So, most merciful Lord,

Remind us that this is thy table,

And that we are truly blessed

To be counted among these, thy friends.


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3 Responses to “Humble Access”

  1. treegestalt Says:

    My wife went to an Episcopal service — at which Jonathon Kozol was invited to give the sermon. About a tiny, poorly funded Episcopal church in the most third-world part of Boston, and the work they were doing. After the talk, there was a set prayer to raise funds for fixing up the spiffy church that invited him.

    Anne walked out. She said she wished she had got up on a pew, George Fox style, and proclaimed: “This is in Poor Taste!” — that being the unkindest thing she could think of to say to a group of Episcopalians.

    I’m not saying the Quakers do any better…

    The church she’s going to now is making a pretty good effort. If hymns & set prayers didn’t make me itch, I’d likely want to go!

    • thoughtfulspirituality Says:

      Wonderful, classic story–though it would have been better if she had done the George Fox thing!

      As for liturgies, I find that I much prefer a freer kind of service, but they do have the great advantage of ensuring that more of the bases are covered. I find too many modern evangelical services are incredibly limited in what they do, almost all praise songs and sermon.

      • treegestalt Says:

        If you’ve read _Take This Bread_ (Sara Miles) you find that the occasion that where she was Zapped from atheist to ~”Wow! This bread is full of Jesus! I don’t know what that means, but there it is!” — was an experimental Episcopalian service with an ad hoc liturgy. Strange, but I guess not that strange.

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