Monday, January 21, 2008

Church on Sunday

Yesterday, I worshiped with the Episcopal brethren.

For the first few months after I stepped down as worship leader, I visited this particular church. Honestly, at first, I was simply curious about the building. I don’t know what that says about me although, lots of churches of lots of denominations work hard on building structures to attract. Don’t know what that says about any of us. It is what it is.

Yesterday I went back for morning worship.

Growing up Baptist didn’t prepare me for the words in the worship booklet.

“Second Sunday after Epiphany” Huh?

“Holy Eucharist” Uh, sort of sounds familiar.

In the booklet, it says that the sermon (Ah, I know that one!) for the day is “The E Word”. My first thought was that “E” stood for Episcopal. If a Baptist sermon were called “The “B” Word”, the word would probably be “Baptist”. We’re proud of our baptistness. But I guess all brands have a certain level of sanctified (at least in our own eyes) pride. I’m not sure there is such a thing as “sanctified pride”. Oh well, another day.

The “E” in the sermon title stood for “evangelism. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that my Episcopal brothers and sisters have a passion and a heart for evangelism! Again, what an arrogant Baptist I am.

During the sermon, the speaker talked of sharing your faith, missed opportunities, preparing for a day at work and praying for chances to minister to someone - being ready to give an account of the joy in your life.

In the service there was lots of kneeling and standing and sitting at different times. I just followed the crowd and didn’t feel awkward. There were lots of responsive readings where the pastor or rector or one of the other guys wearing a robe and cool looking green and gold shawl would lead out and then the congregation would speak together.

I thought, “This is good stuff”. I noticed that some of the faithful knew the material by heart and others, like me, were reading it from the book.

But I’ll tell you, if they were paying attention to what they were reading and saying, it was strong and moving.

We read the Nicene Creed together – we read the Apostles’ Creed. We confessed our sin.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against thee in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved thee with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and humbly repent. For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in thy will, and walk in they ways, to the glory of thy Name. Amen.

We sang songs. I knew some of them and some, I’d never ever heard before. We didn’t do “Shout to the Lord” or “Almighty”.

There was no worship leader out front. As a matter of fact, the whole service was rather void of elevated or celebrated personalities. The most obvious name on the program was the young man that gave the sermon. Still, I didn’t get the impression that the place was full because he was the headliner.

The whole service revolved around the name of Jesus. He was proclaimed Virgin Born, Crucified and Resurrected and alive here and now.

There was no one on the stage charged with the duty of getting us to worship. Like I said, no one personality for us to look at and evaluate. “Why is he wearing that tie?’ “He should get a haircut.” “I don’t like this song”. “I don’t like this guy”. “Where are we going to lunch?” “When will this be over??”

The first time I visited St. Martin’s, the most obvious thing to me was reverence. I needed the quiet – the awe.

No one came into the sanctuary and talked about their golf score or the stock market or how many fish they caught or “How ‘bout those Aggies or Longhorns or
_________________ (fill in your favorite team). I didn’t hear anyone talking about their yards or their grandchildren – as a matter of fact, there was little talking at all.

People came in, walked quietly down the center aisle, and bowed to the cross before taking their places. Some would sit, but most would immediately put down the kneeling bench and pray.

It made me wonder if future generations will have a desire for reverence and awe. Optimistic me thinks they will. Because no matter what advances we make or how technically progressive we become, there will always be a longing in the human soul that won’t be quenched with X Boxes, ipods or HD Television. It may take some years for each living breathing mortal to realize just what the void is, but as we grow older and, hopefully more mature, we recognize the need to fall before our Creator and allow look us in the face through the eyes of the Redeemer.

Hear me. Hold me. Speak to me.


Elizabeth said...

Reverence and awe...That's what I really enjoy about going to church, other than receiving Holy Communion..I just totally enjoy going into my church, kneeling before the altar and then kneeling in prayer thanking God for brining me to church, and thanking Him for all that he has given me. It gets me ready to hear the readings and the sermon, and to say the "our Father". I have been to other places of worship that are loud, everyone claps their hands,and there are songs like "Shout to the Lord", but I am usually not left with the feeling of the "reverence and awe" that I get at my church(even though it's not Episcopal).
I'm glad that you got to experience the quiet..
Everyone worships differently, but at least we all focus on the one thing that bring us there..Jesus.

Anonymous said...

The first word that came to mind after reading your blog was "AMEN". In a lot of church's today there isn't alot of reverence and awe like there used to be when I was a kid. It was like you said people talked about there lives not focusing on our Lord and Savior Jesus. Thank-you so much for your blog it realy opened my eyes.
Your sister in Christ,

Bobbie said...

Hi Wayne,
I enjoyed reading your blog regarding Reverance and Awe. I'm so glad God gave you a heart to love a church other than your own. I've found over the years that I've felt those things as well. I'm a hot dogs, paper plates kind of girl, but I understand well that there is a place for worship and reverance. I too grew up in the Baptist church and loved it in a small town in Oklahoma. I hate that old thing called pride that creeps in and makes us and others from other denominations think that "OUR OWN CHURCH" IS THE ONLY CHURCH"....that is so silly and such a turn off to the unchurched as well as those of us who've been out of church for awhile. As for kneeling in church...I have no problems with that at all. I know many people who kneel and raise their hands and sing Shout to the Lord in the Baptist I'm sure you do too! I for one think that reverance should also exist in my own living room floor on my knees at special times! I came to your site after listening to your old song "Somewhere in the World" regarding praying for your boys wives even when they are little bitty boys! I also love Watercolor Ponies and have for years. I need to catch up on your new stuff. I was listening to my ipod last night and Somewhere in the World touched me so deeply that I began to sob...realizing how quickly this time with my little boys will pass. (also convicting me of other things where I fall short as a wife and mother!) Being a Stay Home Mom is the hardest thing in the world!....and the best. See my boys at

Thanks for your music,
Bobbie Lin

Please feel free to pray for me when you read this.

Aaron said...

Great blog Wayne! I feel the same elation when I visit our more 'stoic' brothers as well! Your perspective on the 'personalities to elevate' not being there is sobering. Elevating Christ: that Is the point, isn't it.

looking forward to August my friend
your Augustine Bolivian roommate

Amylisa said...

Wow....I am so blessed by what you wrote here.
I have been away from my computer a bit and have been catching up on your blogs (CONGRATULATIONS on the birth of little Luke!). I am so inspired by your writing.

I became a Catholic just a little over a year ago. It was a 3-year journey, after the Lord brought me to faith in the Eucharist (the real presence). Since then my heart has been so moved by the divisions in the body of Christ. I am always So encouraged when I see sentiments expressed like yours. I still attend a four square protestant church with my family, and also go to Mass. I am very grateful for the pastor at our protestant church, who has a humble heart and kindness towards other denominations.

Alleluia! The Lord is HEAD of His Church.

God bless you and your family! Much love to you in HIM.