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WORSHIP -- A SCIENTIST'S APPROACH
C.E.CHALLICE

PROLOGUE

The popular image of a scientist is that of an arrogant mastermind. He or she
knows so much about the mechanics of the world that he can penetrate outer
space, generate energy from the sun, compute at fantastic speeds, create life
in a test tube, or destroy the world in a nuclear explosion. But for the vast
majority of scientists the image of arrogance could not be further from the
truth. One is humbled by the vastness of the universe, by the wonder of life
and the beauty of its mechanics, and one is chastened, even frightened, by
the power that the advancing knowledge provided by science is progressively
placing in human hands. And, one way or another, the awe and wonder lead
to some form of worship.

While many scientists distance themselves from the conventional forms of
worship which we have inherited, for this scientist, and for significant numbers
of others, the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist provides a meaningful vehicle
of worship for one of a scientific mind. One is led to ponder at the way this
central act of worship of the vast majority of the Christian Church has
evolved. Only in comparatively recent years have scholars made meaningful
attempts to trace the early development of this rite, but it seems clear that the
form in which we have it today is fuller and more meaningful than the primitive
rites of the early Church, although the evidence available to us on this issue
remains contentious. Its present forms permit people of diverse perspectives
to join together in a communal worship.

In the pages which follow it is proposed to progress through a Celebration of
the Holy Eucharist as viewed by a scientist. One must be careful to avoid the
impression that this is being presented as the only way. But on the other
hand, the claim is put forward that this is a valid and acceptable, and
meaningful, way of worshiping through the Holy Eucharist. This description is
offered with two thoughts in mind; firstly in the belief that it may be of interest
to fellow scientists, where it may possibly enrich their approach to worship,
and secondly for those for whom science appears to be opposed to their
religious ideals, in the hope that they may become more understanding of the
scientist, and of his or her vision of the meaning of life

1
In our time, scientists know more about the way creation works than at any
time in the history of the Universe (or so we believe). This understanding is
the legitimate realm of the scientist. But with all this knowledge of the "How?"
of creation, most scientists are moved to contemplate the next question,
namely "Why?" Some dismiss it as a meaningless question, but many --
perhaps most -- see it as the valid question arising from the logic of the
scientific paradigm. Pursuing this, we know that the character of an artist (be
it painter, sculptor, architect, or musician) is reflected in that artist's works.
And so one looks for something or someone from which creation may
emanate. The scientist's vision of a "Creator" may well prove to be more
abstract than that of the classical theologian, but again we can claim it as a
valid image. And in the shadow of that image we contemplate our smallness,
and the way we have not always enhanced the beauty of creation, in every
way; in our interpersonal relationships and our use or misuse of our
environment. We are humbled by this thought, and humiliated, and, with the
more classical churchman, we can join in the act of humility as we view the
Source of All, afar off, and cry.

KYRIE ELEISON
CHRISTE ELEISON
KYRIE ELEISON.

Both intuitively and intellectually, we have a concept of good and bad, right
and wrong, but we are also conscious of a perverseness which, despite this
knowledge, leads us to do what we know to be wrong. This is what the
Church, in its ancient wisdom, calls sin. Sin is a "Churchy" word, associated
with Holy piety, but despite this, it remains the best word to describe this
ubiquitous human failing.

In all the great religions of the world we have the expression of this
understanding. In the ancient Jewish faith we have the story of Adam and
Eve, which tells us that the acquisition of the concept of good and evil
represents the highest development of the human mind, and placed us
humans in the community of the Creator himself. There developed the desire
to be able to escape from the burden of one's history of wrongdoing, so that it
did not damn us for eternity; so that it became possible for us to make a clean
start. We seek forgiveness, or better, justification, that is to be able to move
forward as if the sin had not occurred. Our ancient Jewish forbears were very
conscious of this, and evolved complex and expensive rituals to express
remorse and seek reconciliation. This is particularly expressed in the book
Leviticus, culminating in Chapter 16, in which we have the formulary for what
was to become the annual Day of Atonement for all Jewish people. Here the
priest transfers the sins of Jewry to an animal which is chased out into the
wilderness to die, (the "Scapegoat") and with him die the sins of the people.
Jesus gave us a much fuller vision of forgiveness in the fulfillment of that rite
(as we shall refer to later). But in our introductory rite to the Holy Eucharist we
contemplate this failing we have, and seek reconciliation with our Creator to
permit us to participate in the joy and grandeur of the later parts of our
service.

As we approach the "Gloria in Excelsis", we receive a ray of light in the
message of the Angels at the first Christmas. We have a promise of peace if
we are of "goodwill"

Glory to God in the Highest,
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for you glory.


The result of sin is the opposite of peace in every way, and thus the promise
of peace implies the overcoming of sin. To achieve this we are reminded of
the prerequisite of remorse in the middle section of the canticle, and we
humbly seek mercy and rehabilitation.

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.


In the final section we have a glimpse of the Creator and the vision of that
Creator that we have through the human link extended to us in the visitation
of Jesus, which (again) will be more evident later in the service.

For you alone are the Holy One
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.


Then follows the brief prayer or Collect for the particular day of the Church's
year. The Society of Ordained Scientists has composed a Collect which gives
emphasis to scientists' particular concerns as they contemplate their role in
God's world.

Almighty God, Creator and Redeemer of all that is, source and foundation of
time and space, matter and energy, life and conciousness: grant us (in this
Society....), and all who study the mysteries of your Creation, grace to be true
witnesses to your glory and faithful stewards of your gifts; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

2
We now come to the instructional part of the service. It seems that at one time
there were four readings from Scripture; the Law, the Prophets, the Epistle,
and the Gospel. Now, in general, we have the last three. In listening to these
readings, the scientist may well be more analytical than the average person.
Frequently the presentation and context of these writings are predicated and
coloured by the way the writer understood the mechanics of his environment
(i.e., the world), in his time. We now often see these things quite differently,
and although it is easy to be conceited, we can, with care and humility, feel
we understand this aspect of our existence more meaningfully. For some
people this produces irreconcilable conflict. Indeed, for some scientists this is
so, leading to their forsaking of the Church entirely. But if we remember that
these old writers were not concerned primarily with how things happened, but
rather why, then we can translate their message into our present day context,
and reveal visions that are as valid today as they ever were. Indeed,
sometimes the message can actually be clarified by our more modern
scientific paradigms.

It is worth spending a few moments considering this problem. It proves very
difficult for some people, particularly for those from a Protestant tradition. To
attempt to put this into perspective we must review some of our history.

The Church is, and by its nature has to be, made up of a spectrum of people,
all with their differing aspirations, and all with the failings inherent inour
humanity. And there have been instances where downright evil people have
had significant positions and influence. One of the causes of the Reformation
was that the influence of the Church was being misused, both temporally and
spiritually. Christians were being told what to believe and do, and deviation
from these prescriptions brought dire consequences. The Church had
become an instrument of power, both spiritually and temporally, and this
situation was challenged by those involved in the movement of revival and
inquiry that we call the Renaissance. This led to the formation of breakaway
groups that we call the Protestant Churches, where teaching was, at least
initially, much less dogmatic, with much greater emphasis on searching the
evidence, particularly the Bible, and in forming one's own spiritual visions.
Unhappily, it was not long before these Protestant Churches became at least
equally dogmatic and prescriptive in their demands of unquestioning faith as
the pre-Reformation Church. The present writer once heard the distinguished
novelist and Christian, Dorothy Sayers, make a very telling and significant
aside during a lecture. She said that the Reformation tended to replace an
infallible Church with an infallible book, and for many of the Protestant groups
that remains so to-day. We have our literalists, who insist that the Universe
was created in six days, and although that particular vision is, by and large,
accepted as representing only the vision of the time when it was written,
every scientific finding which modifies a picture that can be derived from

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