This past Sunday at church I was in a discussion on sacred places. Some one mentioned the sacredness of the circles we gather in: at church, around the meal table, in our living rooms at small groups. When we gather, we gather in circles. Tonight, we had people in our home to talk about world missions with someone from denominational missions office. We started in a circle around the table. We finished in a circle in our living room. Tomorrow night we will do the same with our small group from church.

Our church ancestors (alongside some other religions) were known as "The People of the Book" because of their devotion to God's Word. I decided that our local church should be known as "The People of the Circle." There is something sacred about circles. They have been a symbol of the eternalness of God. When we stand in circles we are connected. Our church rhythms are cyclical. Every year we begin anew on the first Sunday of Advent. We go through the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and the Ordinary times. And we find ourselves back in a new year. In many ways life is more cyclical than linear.

In the west, we tend to think of life and time as being linear. The east tends to be much more circular in their thinking. Literary scholars are quite familiar with circular narrative as many stories throughout history--from Beowulf to To Kill A Mockingbird--end in much the same manner as they began.

In our sanctuary at church we sit in a circle. Three rows of church surround the central altar. As we worship we are aware of the community we worship with--not just by the back of someone's head, but by their faces. When we sing The Lord's Prayer together we often hold hands in three concentric circles, the middle circle moving in the opposite rotation from the other two circles around the table. We get to see each person present as we move and worship.

Because of entrance points at each end of the room, the circle of chairs are really two semi-circles. They look like parenthesis in retrospect. And in many respects, our gathering for worship or in other circles is largely parenthetical. It brackets our daily routines as a beginning and end. Our circles frame who we are during the week--not workers but servants and followers.

And so we come back each Sunday and sit in our chairs for worship--not in rows. We are, after all, the people of the circle.

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