Growing up, I sang in the home church choir from childhood. It is the way we did it in our country, Pentecostal church. One of the songs we'd sing included the words, "The Spirit moved within my soul." Certainly the Holy Spirit is with us always, but sometimes it seems we can sense it more easily. As I stood worshipping Christ today in a church service, I had the deep sense of knowing the Spirit was moving within my soul.
After our group enjoyed breakfast together this morning, individuals scattered across Cambridge in smaller groups, most to attend church services. I, too, made my way to a local church. Passing a number of colleges and even the market, I meandered through the streets enjoying the maze of my 20-minute walk to an old church building on Jesus Lane. That seems like the right place to be for church, doesn't it?
Previously connected with Jesus College, the building in which I worshiped today was built before 1870, but the history of its former congregation goes back to the 11th century. In 1973 that congregation ceased and the building became redundant. However, a nearby congregation now uses the space for special services and other events. The service I attended today was with a congregation temporarily using the building while their chapel is being renovated. It is charismatic Anglican congregation that is part of the Church of England and has existed as a congregation since the 1100s. They have four services on Sundays, and the one I attended was filled to standing room only. I'm certain there were a few hundred people in attendance, and at least 75% of them were college students. A guitarist and a handful of singers led the congregation in a mix of new choruses and traditional hymns. God's presence was evident in the service, and people responded in various ways, some even raised their hands as they lifted their voices in song. I was especially blessed by some of the song lyrics, which I had not heard before. The Spirit seemed to speak directly to me through them today. I thought how for 1,000 years the Spirit has guided individuals and ministered to them through the ministry of the that local church.
The vicar delivered his message in that comforting, teaching manner I appreciate so much, and it was filled with Truth, interesting facts, and helpful instruction. At times we chuckled; at times I wept away my tears. I was reminded of some things, and I was convicted of some things. True to Anglicanism, the service was rich in the Word and everything centered around Christ and our response to His loving goodness. Jesus was the central focus of the service. Men and women of various ages participated in the service by reading scripture, offering prayers, receiving the offering, and serving communion. I so appreciate the Anglican way of intentionally including women in all parts of the service. I also appreciate the emphasis on the Eucharist. Receiving Communion is a deeply spiritual experience for me, and I could do so each day if given the opportunity.
After the service I enjoyed talking with the vicar and the student pastor while enjoying the free refreshments. I learned about the church, how it actively engages the faith, and their use of the spiritual gifts. I could relate to that Anglican preacher John Wesley (whose followers established Methodism) when noted his heart had been strangely warmed. I was encouraged today, and I felt like I'd had a good visit with Jesus-- just like He had been sitting next to me on the pew. (And, of course, He is with us when we receive Holy Communion). When I finally walked outside, I saw it had been raining. That is the first rain we've had in Cambridge since our arrival. As I made my way to a restaurant for a bowl of soup, I pondered that not only had it rained on the outside, but my soul had been spiritually refreshed with Living Water also. I'll certainly visit the local church again during my stay in Cambridge.