Consistency and Inconsistency

Last Sunday morning we went to the Episcopal church down the street.  That denomination's worship service doesn't seem to have much of an impact on Brian other than his glee that it was half an hour long, and our guest is practically half-Catholic so she seemed naturally comfortable with the service.

For me, though...there's something I love about the Episcopal church - the physical structures, the worship spaces.  There's something about the real sacredness I feel in the sanctuaries.  There's an openness in (most of) these churches that - for me, at least - is warm, inviting, and secure.  I love the sense of holiness and reverence.  I love the emphasis on God, by way of Jesus, instead of "Jesus is my boyfriend" message I get at a lot of churches.  (Jesus and I have issues, you see, and I'm not quite as comfortable with that portion of the Trinity.)  

My early childhood was spent attending an Episcopal church.  Granted, we had folding chairs instead of pews, not much in the way of stained glass, and a 'live band' to accompany the choir instead of an organ.  But those Anglican practices were my first exposure to the faith.  When I was 8 or 9, we moved across town and started going to a Lutheran church.  Similar liturgies and whatnot, but with a much more 'PoMo' approach (that church was pomo way before it was hip to be pomo).  We danced, we skipped around the communion table (aka altar, except not), we waved flags and beat on tambourines.  It was lively, and we spent Sunday mornings Raisin Praises to the Lord Jesus.  When I went to college, I went way outside of the liturgical box, so when I married Brian, I was happy to be marrying back into a denomination.

But the Presbyterian church, for all its merits, is somewhat lacking, for me.  I understand more, yes, and can appreciate why we do things the way we do, but I find it all together too...formulaic.  Practiced.  Premeditated, maybe, is closer to the right word.  Everything studied, identified, labeled, and understood.  The motions are set out for us, and we go through them mindlessly.  Here we are, going to church every Sunday, where we say this prayer and sing that song and we hear a message in 14 minutes and 59 seconds or less, we shake hands, and we go about having another Presbyterian Sunday.  All of the thinking, feeling, and praying is set out for us, which - for me - strips the experience of faith down to mere words in the bulletin.

That's not to say that there isn't variance.  It's not boring.  It's very pleasant.  But for me, my faith as practiced in the Presbyterian churches I've visited way feels very self-focused.  There's no impetus to take my own faith into my own hands.  There's no direct challenge - everything is set up in advance, so that the weekly practice of faith is as impersonal as possible.  Presbyterians won't press you or question you.  They respect you, where you are, in your own walk.  They let you do your thing.  For some, this is wonderful.  This is exactly what some people need.  And for centuries, it has worked for millions and millions of Christians.

For me, though, I don't want to be on my own.  Sunday, at the Episcopal church, we prayed for specific members, bishops, regional and national leaders, other churches in the area, other Christian denominations, and other churches across the country.  One by one, we took moments to pray for our leaders and our brethren in the (broader) faith.  Every Sunday, Episcopalians join in these prayers, and are led by a calendar.  Over the period of a month or a year, every congregant, every leader, every Christian denomination, all area churches, and hundreds or maybe thousands of churches receive specific, focused, deliberate prayer.  I nearly cried. 

In that moment, I realized how much I've missed that kind of deliberate approach to my faith, joined in effort by my congregation and my fellow believers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for taking a moment to leave a comment. I love hearing from you!