This week my intention was to visit a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, as to my recollection I have never been to one. I picked a local church based on the info on their website. They seemed to know exactly what they believed, which I appreciate. I also appreciated that they met at 10, which gave me an extra hour to sleep in. However, I chose to leave part-way through the service and head over to St. Paul’s Episcopal, where I have been regularly attending, to catch their late service.
My decision to leave was based on a couple of factors, one of which kind of surprised me. First, I was slightly annoyed that although they had brand-new Service Books in the pews, they didn’t use them. Instead, they had reprinted everything – including the hymns – in the bulletins, which ended up being several pages. The fact that people would rather waste paper than take the time to pick up a book was actually annoying to me. (Although, a benefit is that I now have a copy of their liturgy, which I’ll hang on to.)
Next, they use “communion cards.” I was raised Lutheran (LCA) but don’t know what these are. Why do they keep a record of taking communion? And, I found out as I read the card that I wouldn’t be able to take communion because I hadn’t gotten “clearance” from an elder first. Fine time to point that out, after the service has begun.
However, the real reason I decided to leave was that the Lutheran service lacked the pomp and respect that I have become used to in the Episcopal church. There were no kneeling benches. I never knelt in church before 9 months ago, and now I miss it. The Gospel was read from the front, not down among the people. No one crossed themselves. The whole service just felt “flat.” The pastor was cheery enough, but the whole process somehow lacked joy, as well as the sense of reverence that is inescapable at St. Paul’s.
So, I escaped during a hymn. Walking into St. Paul’s, I felt at home, and loved every minute of it. Even the sermon – delivered by a guest priest, the Rev. Karen Tiegs – was fantastic, tying in today’s Gospel and Epistle readings. So, I spoke to the priest in charge after the service, and we’re going to get together in a couple of weeks.
Of course, I know that the Episcopal church has issues. However, I haven’t heard anything in this church in the last 9 months that I have a problem with.
So we’ll see. It’s an interesting journey.