So Lisa and I went to church this morning. Let me tell you about it.
There is an elderly woman Lisa used to take care of. But once Lisa started university several years ago, she had to quit. We’ve stayed in touch and we visit them once in a while. They go to a local Anglican Church which is considered higher Anglican. That is, there is more liturgy, symbols and formality than most. So we decided we would go today.
It is an old church building with vaulted ceilings and wooden beams. Stained glass. It is the second Sunday in Advent. Lots of candles. Lots of men and boys in robes. There were some women in robes as well. A choir. Lots of rising, sitting and kneeling. Singing. Prayers read and said. Large crosses and candles paraded. The gospel in gold taken to the center of the church from where it is read in a very exalted manner. The sermon was about 10 minutes long, preached by a female divinity student, She read her very ordered message. Eucharist. It was all very sober. Very serious. The whole service lasted 90 minutes, which we were informed was “longer than usual”.
It was a very traditional, orthodox Christian service. The summary of the law was said. The Lord’s Prayer was said. The Nicene Creed was said. The hymns were traditional. The sermon was very orthodox.
While I was experiencing the service I had a few powerful feelings flow through me that I want to tell you about.
- The first is nostalgia. It has been years since I attended a traditional Christian church service. I had been attending church all my life until three and a half years ago. I was actually baptized in the Anglican communion as an infant. So it was deeply moving to be in that context again. It evoked a pleasant emotions. I remember that even though I’d experienced a lot of terrible things in the church, there were also a lot of good things. Of course, this is one of the reasons I still believe in the church and love it and passionately speak about it all the time. To be able to find a church where you can enjoy the good that it offers without having to put up with abuse, manipulation, control and anti-intellectualism is a good thing. If you find such a church or community, eureka!
- The second is community. I pretty much live as a hermit. Funny thing is many years I wondered if I should have been a hermit. The problem was I was married to a very young Lisa at the time and it nearly broke up our marriage. I know the meaning of be careful what you pray for because now I spend almost all my time alone. As the personality test that we did yesterday reminds me, I’m totally okay with solitude. But I do like being with people when I want to be. So this morning I really enjoyed sitting next to the elderly couple who is so kind to us amongst a crowd of people voluntarily gathered around one agreed thing. It felt good, beneficial and something worth enjoying.
- The third thing is theology. I realized as we were saying all these orthodox words and doing all these orthodox movements, that every person in that room assigns to and solicits from these words and movements different meanings. I saw, in a flash, what I dreamed a few years ago, that all these words and movements are symbols, and that some see these symbols as an attempt to articulate a mystery in tangible terms, whereas others believe they are factual realities and not symbols at all. I suddenly felt what I know for certain… that one person who believes God literally became a human baby in order to rescue the human race can sit next to someone who considers this story a beautiful metaphor describing reality in symbolical and mythological terms, and that these two people can be totally united as one because, in reality, they are experiencing the same thing but only understanding it and articulating it through their own unique matrixes. This is where the knowledge and sense of true unity comes from… not from something that must be attained through theological agreement, but from something that is already attained and which good theology attempts to communicate.
As you can see, a lot can happen in 90 minutes. It was a rich experience. Perhaps it wasn’t what the officiators intended. But I was still inspired and edified, and my hard heart, my rigid mind and my stubborn spirit was again gently broken to love the whole world and all that is in it. And I emphasize “gently” because not once did I feel violated. And this is a good thing.
Peace and love my friends,