“Between two worlds.” That’s a bit how I was feeling this morning, as I drove away from St. Paul’s Episcopal to attend my second worship service of the day at Salem Evangelical with my family. As I’ve probably written before, my wife and I have been “Vineyard” for over twenty years, attending 5 different Vineyard churches over that period. Besides the fact that my oldest was baptized in the Presbyterian church that my in-laws attended, and that we visited there 2 or 3 times over the years, the Vineyard is the only church that my kids have known. For those of you not familiar with the Vineyard, it’s about as relaxed and informal a church as you can find; so for my children, any church where you can’t walk around or talk during worship is formal. I have to say that at this point in my life, I have some regrets about that.
I was raised Lutheran, so liturgy is not new to me. I’ve also visited Orthodox churches several times, so I’ve also been exposed to “extreme” high church. For many years, I was completely content – even happy – with my informal church setting, never dreaming that I would someday start missing the liturgy. But, the more theology I read, the more I became aware of how empty most contemporary worship services are. I won’t go into that any further now; I’ve dealt with some of that in some earlier posts. At some point I began to realize that for me, the Vineyard was just a shallow veneer laid over the top of my richer church background and theology, but for those who have no background in theology (or Bible, for that matter), a veneer was all that there was. Most contemporary churches offer no theology, not even a hat tip to the creeds or Lord’s Prayer. The hymnology – if you could call it that – was also greatly lacking any real theological content.
So, now I find myself in search of a richer, more historically rooted worship expression, and I’m thrilled to have found a couple of good Episcopal churches in the area. I still visit Lutheran churches on occasion, however I’m disappointed with how watered-down the liturgy seems to have become, especially when “special,” more relevant liturgies are used. I’m becoming quite fond of the Episcopal liturgy, so I will probably become more of a regular at St. Paul’s. However, there’s no way I’m expecting my family to attend with me; so, I have resolved to attend early services at Episcopal and Lutheran churches, then attend the local Evangelical church with my family.
They haven’t fully decided on Salem Evangelical either, however my neighbor is the pastor, and we respect him a lot. We all have a bit of a hard time with it culturally – it’s a bit like watching one of those televised services full of shiny, happy people – but they are both sincere and intent on what they do; and, it’s a pretty solid church. They always have a public prayer time during the service, and have recently started giving place to the reading of Scripture – something not found in most contemporary churches. And, they’re very involved in missions, always having teams off to one place or another. So, while I cringe at the middle-aged choir singing “up-beat” choruses, the rest of the service, along with the message, is quite solid. It certainly sets a better example of what it means to be a Christian than our old church.
But, it’s not enough for me. I’m finding that I crave the historical church experience – the confessions, the prayers, the Lord’s Supper – enough to get up for the early services. However, I can’t see ever becoming any more than a regular guest at any liturgical church, as I won’t join a church by myself. And, I can’t see at this point becoming part of the Evangelical church, although that could change, as long as we were all up front about my “alternate lifestyle.” But, in all this I am finding myself in 2 worlds, but at the same time not really in either one. I am between two worlds, and I’m not really comfortable there, either.
Cool! Good insight!
That’s not what I mean by liturgy, however. The liturgy is intent about noticing a number of things, God included, and lays out the context for noticing God. The liturgy doesn’t vary according to our feelings or our moods, and prevents the service from being hijacked by any number of forces and agendas.
I plan to write more on the benefits of liturgy in the near future.
I see the liturgy as “noticing God”, which I see tends to be lacking in most “worship services”. There’s more emphasis on acknowledging the attendees as being important but there is virtually no communication with God during this time, who claims to be in our midst during these times. There’s the attempt to be family and to make the coming together very relaxed and laid back but there is no “noticing” God. None. So liturgy, I see, is the food and drink that satisfies the soul because it causes us to commune with God on a corporate level, even if only a little bit.
Carry on, my wayward son.