Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Oh the places you'll go

My job takes me to some of the most interesting places.
Tonight I went to what my boss calls (based on the outside appearance) “The Dr. Seuss Church.” There I covered the ordination of an Episcopalian priest, the Rev. Connie.
There are so many things about the last sentence that is foreign to my way of worship. While I have attended ordinations they were not Episcopalians, they were not open to the public, and they were not giving the priesthood to women.
I don’t really need to get into the difference of one religion over another. In my view, all Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions are based in truth. I know that is a hard concept for a lot of people to follow, after all, many wars have been fought over religion ~ at its core, the current war in Iraq is a holy war.
The divisiveness of people who believe in a creator is rather astonishing when you think about it.
But the truth is, the creator is not the problem, it is His followers.
I was born into a world where religion is served cafeteria style.
“I’ll have a helping of God is the creator, pass on the law of chastity, and could you give me an extra helping of Christmas?”
It is all so convenient, but it is also remarkably confusing for people seeking the truth. How does one know if they are hearing the teachings of man or the teachings of God? I believe one can find the truth by asking in faithful prayer.
The meeting I attended was heavy on ceremony. Priests were dressed in vestments, canters sang and parishioners replied, we stood, we kneeled, we passed the plate and in an extensive ceremony took communion. (Well, I didn’t take communion, because it isn’t my religion, but you get the idea.)
I think I can count on one hand the number of times I have attended this kind of church service. My traditional Sunday meeting is much more low key, but it lasts longer ~ three hours to be exact. We don’t serve a meal afterwards, either.
The three hour meeting is actually three meetings. Two are classroom meetings and the third is Sacrament meeting where our version of communion is administered.
It is all very simple. There is not procession bearing the cross. We do not stand to sing (unless it has been a very long meeting and the chorister is trying to wake us up), we do not kneel to pray. Deacons, usually boys ages 12-14, bring the sacrament to us after it has been blessed by priests, boys ages 16 and older. We drink water instead of wine, and it is served in individual cups.
In addition to the Sacrament, we sing an opening and closing song and listen to talks. Since it is a lay ministry the speaker could be anyone from a 14-year-old boy to an 80 year old woman.
None of them follow a text; instead they prepare their own talks using scripture and other church resources. Sometimes the speakers are given a topic by the Bishop, the congregation leader, but sometimes they are not.
I have no desire to leave my church. But I was impressed by some things about the Episcopal service. For one thing, everyone sang. The group was about half the size of the congregations I attend, but their enthusiastic singing was twice as powerful as the mumbling I hear in my church.
However I was less impressed by the drinking out of a communal cup. Ick.
But I did find a common thread in the Episcopal worship, faith in God. I heard words preached I might easily have heard from my own pulpit, I felt the sense of community I feel in my home church, even though I only knew one other person in the meeting, the staff photographer.
I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter what church you belong to, because I think it does. But it matters more how faithfully you follow the teachings of your church.
God looks upon the heart. He sees who is faithful, he knows if you love your neighbor, if you wish to serve, if you have repented of sin. God, the creator, whatever you want to call Him, knows who has integrity and who truly wishes to be good.
As I sat in the meeting next to three squirming little girls, hearing the choir raise their voices in an unfamiliar song praising a familiar God I felt a connection to strangers, my brothers and sisters.
When I came home from Easter I found these blooming in my yard under a layer of snow. By Tuesday afternoon the snow had melted enough for me to brave the out of doors to take some photos. I love bulb flowers!


Wyo sis said...

Inspirational. The tulips are wonderful. I suspect it will be many weeks before we see any here.

horseygal said...

I think you handled this in a sensitive manner.
Most people have a hard time trying to understand things that are different from their own beliefs.

Susan said...

I always find it interesting to hear other people's point of view on religions.....any religion. I have my own....some good, some bad. I feel everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Including me. LOL :o)

Gwyn said...

You have really eloquently stated the core truth here, that is missed the world over; yes, it matters which church we each choose, because we come in different flavors and need different things to help us seek the truth. But in the end, they all are the same; a way to truth, meaning and hope for our lives.

Lovely photos, btw. And it isn't even March anymore! ;)