Meanwhile, a quick discussion of "Public Worship" by James Freeman Clarke (see all posts JFC)
"Public worship has this great advantage and value, — that it recognizes a public religious sentiment. It is a perpetual denial by the Christian Church of its own doctrine of Total Depravity. It assumes that the whole community, the converted and the unconverted, the regenerate and the unregenerate, can pray, ought to pray, wish to pray. It so far counteracts the pharisaic feeling engendered by these distinctions. It is, moreover, a religious education for the whole community. Who can tell the amount of influence exerted, directly and indirectly, by the fact of Sunday worship pervading the whole land, of Sunday stillness, cessation from business, of church-bells, and the streets filling with the currents of piety which set toward the house of God ? Who can estimate the impression made by the sight of young and old, rich and poor, all classes, all orders, equalized before God in a common worship, — by the great assembly kneeling together, responding together, lifting their voices with one accord in solemn hymns and anthems, moved by a common feeling and conviction in listening to the word read or spoken ? It is a humanizing influence, purifying and elevating the community, keeping alive the sense of God's presence in the world and nearness to the human heart, keeping up a Christian standard of duty and responsibility.
But not only does public worship tend to educate the community by awakening and developing religious ideas, but it also cultivates humane feelings, brings the different classes of society near to each other, makes one common platform on which all can stand together, and so counteracts continually the tendencies to separate and isolated life. People who live all other days apart from each other, whose lives are narrowed to little rounds of domestic duty, who see only small family groups and cliques, come into church on the Lord's day, and feel themselves for an hour at one with all classes of men. This hour... does much to emancipate them from a narrow and too individual life. All professions, conditions, characters, are side by side engaged in the same serious occupation. Political opponents here forget their disputes, — rivals in fashion, competitors in business, rich and poor, are here brought into a certain sympathy ; — and this is no small gain."
No small gain indeed. Blessings and may you have a blessed Sabbath.
(note: The photo above is of the Church of the Disciples, JFC's Church in Boston)