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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Worship In Unexpected Places

It was the last place I would have chosen to worship!

Needing a long overdue surgery required my attendance at a hospital.

Nothing about the building’s appearance said this is a place of worship. It was clean. The smell had that “hospital smell,” a radiating aroma with a hint of sterile. However, despite the building’s cleanliness, it lacked the aesthetics familiar to a house of worship.

Gurneys replaced altars. IV hangers were more prominent than candlestick holders. There were no praise and worship musicians and singers; only the constant music of beeps and alarms alerting nurses and attendants that patients needed attention.

I was there for surgery. I didn’t expect to discover worship!

As an ordained minister to Word and Sacrament, liturgy is meaningful to me. When correctly understood, one discovers a sacredness embodied in the forms, rituals, and symbolism offered in all styles of worship. Despite one’s denominational affiliation, most are familiar with some type of worship order; formal or informal.

Ritual is meaningful to humans. Significant events in life call for ceremony, beauty, and solemnity.

But this was a hospital. I was there for surgery and hopefully, a quick overnight stay. However, the “quick overnight stay” was extended due to complications. And, discovering the beauty of liturgy on a hospital bed was the last thing I expected!

The term “liturgy” is from two Greek words, “laos,” meaning people, and “ergon,” meaning “work,” reminding us that true worship is a work that involves the whole people of God.

Worship turns our attention from the world so that we might see the Divine. It challenges us to re-focus, re-concentrate, and re-orients us to God’s faithfulness, which produces our praise and thanksgiving. We sing, celebrate, confess our sins, hear words of absolution, are instructed and equipped by God’s Word, and receive nourishment in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

These acts of worship are far more than a religious formality. They are sacred acts, filled with substance; essential work engaged by God’s people.

Laying on a hospital bed, I saw worship in action!

Although my hospital room looked nothing like a chapel or church, worship transformed an ordinary place to sacred space.

I watched in awe — and thanksgiving — as nurses, doctors, and attendants skillfully and attentively cared for me. On a hospital bed, I sensed God’s presence through the work of His people.

To Aubrey, Cheryl, Trisha, Al, Malathy, Brad, George, Amy, Dr. Nelson, and the faces I remember, but names my foggy brain failed to recall, THANK YOU! You allowed me to see once again, worship as the work of the people.

I’d be interested:

Where have you encountered worship in unexpected places? Do you see yourself as Christ’s representative in your world? Let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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