A Vague Feeling

We were attending a non-denom church. In fact, it was the church where I met my wife. We had lots of great friends. We were in a wonderful bible study. It was about a half hour drive to get there, which was a bit much. But everything was very nice and comfortable there.

Slowly, though, a general malaise started to grow over me. We had been attending the evening worship service, which consisted of singing several praise songs to the accompaniment of a fantastic band, heard a sermon based on some section of Scripture, prayed a bit, sang a bunch more songs, and then went home. Communion was maybe once per month. Since my wife and I really loved the old classic hymns, we decided to start attending one of the morning services. The hymns were there, but this church was not as good at classic worship as it was at the newfangled. No matter which service you went to, you were likely to run into a worship leader, wildly gesticulating, trying to squeeze a little emotion out of the experience. As I said elsewhere, a vibrant faith was the same thing as crying during a hymn.

I don’t think I had read Merton yet.

Anyway, something was wrong. Was this really all that worship was about? Songs and sermons? And to be honest, though the sermons were generally good and challenging, I wasn’t really getting all that much out of them. By the time I came the next week, I hadn’t a clue what had been said the week before. Which, clearly, is my fault. But is this all that it really was about? It seemed to reduce worship to a wild combination of cheap emotionalism and ethereal thought. Sing for a while and get riled up. And then listen, learn and apply. I never was able to really put my finger on it. But something was missing.

My initial guess was that it was some of the formalism of my previous Presbyterian church that was missing. So my wife, who shared my feelings, and I cast about for another Presbyterian church. And we found a good one that slightly closer to home. The preaching wasn’t as good, but it was a solid congregation, very active, very engaged and engaging, very friendly. There was a little bit of liturgy, but not enough.

Somewhere along the line, I had determined that more liturgy was the answer to my problem. If I can’t remember the sermon from week to week, at least I will be able to derive profit from the parts of the liturgy that are identical from week to week. Slowly over time, went the thinking, the liturgy will change me, even if the sermons don’t. Trouble is, where are the liturgical churches? Catholic? Never. Orthodox? There are none. Episcopal? Aren’t they just wild gay orgies? Turns out: no.

As Providence would have it, we were invited over for dinner to some Presbyterian friends’ house. And casually, as an aside during dinner, she happened to mention this giant Episcopal church down the street, which she had attended for a Christmas concert. And something to the effect that, despite the fact that it was a liturgical church, it was nevertheless alive with the Spirit. In those circles, liturgy is frequently associated with “rote”. Which means, dead.

So this time,  we attended this Episcopal church one Sunday. Nothing would ever be the same again. My wife and I were both in tears at the astounding beauty of the liturgy. And not only did we get the liturgy, but also hymns. Glorious hymns, gloriously played and vigorously sung. And the Eucharist every week. (I had read Merton by now). This is what had been missing. The Eucharist as the center (though not the object) of worship. And fantastic sermons based on huge Scripture readings from a lectionary (i.e., not at the whim of the pastor). Sure, I was a little bugged by the woman “priest”. But man, that was a small price to pay. To this day, worship has never been more aesthetically beautiful than it was there.

A couple of priests visited our apartment. I got to tell them how Merton had led me to them, in inspiring me with the desire for sacramental worship. And we figured we’d be here forever.

And we would have been if Prophet Gene hadn’t gone ahead and done his thing. Though I am anticipating the story a bit here, because, by that point, I was merely using the Prophet (pbuh) as an excuse to take the plunge across the Tiber.

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~ by Rob on May 16, 2008.

One Response to “A Vague Feeling”

  1. […] A vague feeling that the worship service I was attending wasn’t what it was supposed to be […]

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