A couple weeks ago, Chad and I continued our church visits by attending the local Episcopal church. I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about some evangelical Christians who have been attending Episcopal churches, drawn in by the liturgy and tradition. Rachel Held Evans wrote a beautiful, poetic piece about the community and the sacredness of the church she’s been attending. I also just finished Preston Yancey’s new book, Tables in the Wilderness, in which he tells his story about working out his faith, from a Southern Baptist upbringing to his years at Baylor University, including his experiences in the Episcopal church, where he finds he “prays best.” So I was anxious to see what this service would be like and how it would fit in with our search for community.
The church was beautiful. It reminded me of Europe somehow, which is never a bad thing. The people were friendly and welcomed us to desserts and coffee after the service. The service itself was nice. We’d already been to a few different churches with liturgical services, so I knew what to expect.
The Eucharist was perhaps the newest experience for me. We proceeded up the aisle to the rail and knelt down with our hands cupped before us to receive the bread, which we then dipped into the cup. I know you can also cross your arms across your chest and receive a blessing instead if you choose not to receive the sacraments.
This morning, Chad and I attended an evangelical church, which I will discuss more in a later post, but it helped me contrast the main differences between the church that I’ve always known and the ones that we’ve been visiting recently. The past several churches we’ve attended have been liturgical and in many ways, I think I do connect better there. The recitations, the prescribed prayers and responses, the readings and simple messages… it helps me connect with God when I can’t seem to do it myself.
Since losing our church, I have not doubted God. My faith in Christ has not faltered; changed sure, but this is not a faith crisis or period of doubting. But I do know that my relationship with God has changed, has distanced maybe, or just complicated. My struggles with the church, with feeling hurt by the church I attended for years, and my doubts about finding another church home and community have left me wandering in a faith that I sometimes don’t recognize. So the free form prayers, the contemporary worship music, and the themed sermon series of the evangelical church seem all the harder for me to follow. But the liturgies, although not quite resonating the way I had hoped, are at least meaningful to me. I am instructed what to pray, when to confess, and when to give thanks, and what scriptures to read. I feel connected to the larger body of Christ. I feel more aware of the larger groanings of the church and the sacrifices and acts of love of our God for humanity as a whole. It reminds me that it’s not just about me, it’s about all of us, as a corporate worshiping body.
And beyond that, there’s something more physical about the posturing. You sit, you stand, you kneel at liturgical churches. You cross yourself, you cup your hands, you approach the alter. It feels active. It requires you to participate, and I like that.
Honestly, I’m not sure I connected very much at this particular Episcopal church. It was fine, but I didn’t feel passionate about it. But the idea of a more traditional church is something I’m more and more excited about.