It is the season for private Holy Communions...the appointment cards went out a couple of weeks ago and now two or three people each day will have this important service in their home where they've become "shut in" for most of the time. It is a great privilege to be so closely with someone as they receive the bread and wine.
One of the very interesting aspects is the effect that the familiar words have. For those whose memory is slipping the traditional service brings back long forgotten phrases and stories from their past. The service is sometimes punctuated with tales of family or church. But the prayers and the words of comfort clearly work at a very deep level. "That's an old one" was the comment that came with the "Amen" as I prayed "Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open..."
Year after year of attending church and using the same phrases has created a reservoir of prayer into which we can tap... Maybe it isn't often seen at surface level... Maybe it requires the liturgy to trigger the memories... But it is there. And the spirituality that it represents is real and important.
What of the future? What of the young people who drop in to church once or twice every month or two? What of their parents who are seldom seen in church at all? What of the children who are never brought into the fellowship? Will they have the same reservoir on which to draw when they reach their 80s and 90s? Perhaps The Lord's Prayer...but...what else? How will their adult spiritual lives be nourished if they lose their sight or their hearing...will they be able to recall words of prayers or hymns to encourage and strengthen?
Lines of hymns and psalms, passages of scripture, prayers from the liturgy all create a great fund of spiritual reserves that will be lost to many of the present generation of church members... Familiar words have a place among all the variety of liturgies and songs. We need both - one to build up reserves, the other to stretch our thinking.