by Maggie Horn
Recently, our church sent a group of kids to Higher Things 2016 at Colorado State University. Between the conference, the campus, the friends, the classes, the meals, and the activities, there’s too much to write about in one article. So today, I’ll just focus on the services.
There were three worship services a day—Matins, Vespers, and Evening Prayer. The campus didn’t have a real chapel, so they converted the ballroom hall into one. The platform where the live band would’ve played bore the altar and lectern, and behind the altar hung the crucifix, flanked on both sides by banners depicting baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It made a striking contrast with the wall behind them—the whole wall was blue-tinted glass. The mountains were layered behind the campus buildings, just like the altar and crucifix—but the tint made the world seem dark and dreary next to the well-lit cross and altar; even during Vespers, the noonday service.
We gathered after breakfast for the first service, where we came together to sing to the Lord, to make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation, coming into his presence with thanksgiving and making a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise, acknowledging him to be the Lord, our voices joining the whole earth in worshiping the Father Everlasting when we sung the Venite and Te Deum during Matins. We came back together for Vespers, where the pastor and the gathered assembly prayed and sung back and forth in responsory verse.
And as the day closed we gathered for Evening Prayer (also known as the Service of Light), the liturgy we followed for our Wednesday Evening services during Lent and Advent. The choir sat in the front-most rows with all 1,026 people in attendance sitting behind them. To sit in the frontmost row with that many people singing behind you was a humbling experience, and to hear a thousand unique and individual voices all around you finding their own place in the harmony of the hymns till you could barely hear your own voice was a reminder of why we sing: when we raise our voices in song, our cry goes up with all the church on earth, the four living creatures, the angels in heaven, and every Christian that ever was and will be till the time Christ returns to this earth.
At the closing service, trumpets and horns and strings and flutes played “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing,” and as the cross processed out for the last time of the year, the choir raised their voices in descants and harmonies to the tune of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” After what felt like far too short a time for such a beautiful hymn, the church fell silent and all around the building. New friends chased each other down to get each other’s phone numbers and old friends, who were taken from each other’s company by circumstances bigger than them and yet still cared for each other, had to say goodbye. Yet all of these friends knew that the next time they would meet would be in another twelve months, around the same thing that everyone had in common, the same thing that never got old, the one thing that was more important than any friendship…
Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life