15 November 2007

Experiencing liturgical worship

So, the past two weeks, my wife and I have attended an Anglican church here in town. The first week was sort of odd. I liked a lot of the service, particularly the liturgy surrounding the Eucharist. But it was not a normal week for them. It was their annual commitment Sunday where people are reaffirming their commitment to serve and their commitment to financial stewardship. Then they had an infant baptism. Then there was a fairly lengthy testimony from one of the older members who has been going through cancer treatment and to top it all off, it was All Saints Sunday and the assistant rector was delivering the sermon instead of the senior rector who I had heard before from message on their website. So between all of that and being completely unfamiliar with the liturgy and when to sing or when to respond, plus the service running long, we left with mixed feelings.

On a side note, if all that mattered was how we were treated, we'd have joined on the spot. Hands down it's the friendliest, most welcoming people I've ever encountered visiting a church. Anyone within a 20-foot radius managed to make their way over to us and warmly greet us. People sitting right behind us or on the row with us were helpful in pointing out where we were in the liturgy and where to go and what to do. Sweet, sweet people.

I wanted to return and at least experience what would be considered a "normal" Sunday for the church before making a decision. My wife wasn't so sure. I think when I said I wanted to visit a more traditional church, she wasn't envisioning quite as much tradition as I was. So we talked and she agreed to go the next Sunday as I had been assured via email correspondence with the senior rector that this Sunday would be more of a typical one for them and he would love to meet me afterward. I agreed that if we left and she still felt the same way about it, we'd go back to the contemporary church we'd been attending and see what God had in store for us there.

Well, we went this past Sunday and again, I really liked it. Being more used to the order and "rhythm" of things the second time, we didn't feel so lost and confused. The rector's sermon was excellent. Such strong, Biblical preaching and teaching. And again, the liturgy of the Eucharist was so reverent and worshipful and I just love partaking of the Lord's Supper every week. We met the rector and his wife and liked them a lot. They seem like genuinely caring people.

But I wasn't sure what my wife thought.

So we're talking on the way home and I ask her how she felt about it this week and she said that no one was more surprised than her, but she really, really enjoyed it. She felt more comfortable. We sat a little further back and in a weird way, not getting so much attention made her feel less "watched" and more able to just take it all in. She enjoyed the sermon and the hymns. It was a good all around experience. After making sure she wasn't just saying what I wanted to hear and that it's truly how she felt, we have decided to commit to attending for a least the next month. We want to find out more about their children's program and maybe meet with the rector and find out more about their particular place in the Anglican communion, more details on the doctrinal beliefs and so on. So I'm excited.

Just be in prayer for us as we seek God on where He wants us. And pray that we will be able to dig deeper into all that a liturgical approach to worship has to offer.


Qatfish said...

Am praying!

Heide Seward (aka, Miss Climpson) said...

Ragamuffin, thank you for sharing the story of your first foray into liturgical worship. Having grown up in the Episcopal Church (with the 1928 Prayer Book), it's all second nature to me, but it took me a long time to learn. Now that I have become a Catholic I follow the "dance steps" pretty easily. In fact, I have found some Anglican services are more "Catholic" than modern Catholic ones! Even a year into attending Mass regularly I still want to hit my knees as soon as the priest says, "Let us pray."

The bottom line? I miss some elements of Anglican worship sometimes, although I must say, there are some wonderful things happening in the Catholic Church re. liturgical reform. In any case, I went to Rome not because of the style of worship but because I concluded its claims were true. And I've never looked back.

Thanks for your comments about my blog posting (on Seward's Folly) re. my conversion story. I will keep you and your wife in my prayers as you consider where God is leading.

Ragamuffin said...

Thanks Heide. I truly appreciate anyone that would take a few moments to remember me and any issues going on in my life when they are praying.

I do agree on one thing with you: if the day ever comes where I "go to Rome," it will be because I'm convinced they are who they say they are. But not a day sooner.

As far as the Anglican worship style, I like it. We'll see how the next few weeks go. One thing I hope to do is attend their Christmas Eve service. I can and do enjoy contemporary worship services, but when it comes to Christmas (and Easter), I'm a hardcore traditionalist. I don't like "caroling" services, mushy sentiment sermons, gimmicky programs and other such banal offerings.

The trick will be in getting out of the "family" Christmas Eve routine we've done since my wife and I have been married. The way we've done the holiday season has always been that my mom got us (and now our daughters as well) on Christmas Eve during the day. Then, late in the afternoon around 5 or so we'd go over to my dad and stepmom's. Other people from her side of the family would join us and we'd all go to the Christmas Eve service at my dad's church (used to be Assemblies of God, now is Baptist). After that, we'd return to the house for dinner and then open presents. My wife's side of the family got Christmas morning through lunch. At any rate, because we were always coming from out of town and were away from our home church, this wasn't a problem. However, we've moved back home and live in the same town with all the parents, so whatever church we're attending is right there. Second, the girls are getting old enough that I want to establish some traditions of our own as a family. So that means for Christmas morning this year, we'll wake up in our own house and do the Santa and the stockings thing. Later that morning that we'll head up to my wife's parents for the rest of the regular Christmas day routine.

The next domino in this establishing of tradition is that I'd like for us to go to our own home church on Christmas Eve, then meet up with the rest of the family and do the regular Christmas Eve afterward. This may cause some friction.

So when you're praying, also be praying about that. I don't want to cause a huge fuss, but if I don't carve out some special traditions now for our own family to have here in this first year back in the hometown, it may never happen.