‘Te Deum Laudamus’

Ernst Cassirer, philosopher, anthropologist, and author, has said that “nature yields man nothing without ceremony.” Neither does God, who gave us nature’s ceremony of seasons and sea-tides, colorful and musical.

Most Christians reflect an inborn need for ceremony in their weddings, funerals, and, in some cases, baptisms. And today many evangelicals are overcoming their historic dislike and distrust of ceremony in worship services. Ceremony properly centered on God, they are discovering, reinforces the glory and majesty that rightly belong to him.

Episcopalians have always known that God yields nothing without ceremony, and they showed this in the colorful and impressive installation of John Maury Allin as their twenty-third presiding bishop. The service took place June 11 in Washington, D. C., in the still unfinished National Cathedral. The interior view contrasts sharply with the exterior. Approaching the cathedral’s entrance the worshiper passes by graveyard-like rows of carved stone awaiting final placement. But inside, the massive blue-grey limestone, cream-colored marble, and deep blue stained-glass windows reflect completion. The tension between the inside appearance and the reality of the total structure seems a fitting symbol of the work of God in his church.

The service lasted an hour and forty-five minutes and began with a dramatic procession. The congregation of 3,000 rose as each of the six segments of the procession entered the cathedral. First came representatives from the church in Mississippi (Allin’s home state), led by bearers of a Coptic cross and the state’s flag. Then a Sinai cross preceded the Washington delegation. Next came another Coptic cross and representatives of the seminarians, ...

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