Monday, April 27, 2015

13/52 :: same kind of different.

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other -- that man, that woman, that child is my brother or my sister."

- Mother Teresa


A few years ago, I told Jordan my idea for a book. "Wouldn't it be interesting," I said, "to spend a year going to different church denominations, highlighting what makes us all different, sure, but also -- and maybe more importantly -- discovering all of our similarities?" 

We were driving down a southern highway, and we had passed at least a dozen churches of varying types and denominations. And sure, a part of me found that -- still finds it, I guess -- disheartening. One church, one body, etc. But the other, bigger part of me wondered if it was okay, if it was just different believers, worshiping the Father, Son, and Spirit in the best ways they knew how.

Fast forward a couple of years. Since moving to Thomasville (and even including the months leading up to the move), Jordan and I have visited dozens of churches. Methodist, Presbyterian, church of Christ, Baptist, non-denominational, Catholic, and yes, Anglican. 

Now, whenever I worship and wherever I worship, I think of all the people we've met in our season of church hopping. I think of the elderly gentleman who served me communion one morning alongside his granddaughter. I think of my favorite priest at St. Peter's, the one who closes his eyes when he sings. I think of the African-American couple who sat behind us at the church of Christ where I grew up, the people who knew me by my grandmother's name better than my own. I think of the women who wore head-coverings and long skirts, the ones who took us out for barbecue. I think of the Methodist church where the praise team was in cowboy boots and jeans, playing the fiddle for "bluegrass Sunday."
There have been kind, friendly faces and quiet, stoic ones. Scripture read from half a dozen translations, prayers recited while kneeling. We've had stale crackers and grape juice, discs of bread and cheap wine. 

And here is what I believe: I've met hundreds of brothers and sisters this way. These are people who believe in the same Jesus I do. The Methodists and the Presbyterians and the Baptists and the churches of Christ (even the ones who wouldn't want to be on this list) are eerily similar; more similar, in fact, than not. Disregard the instruments and the choirs and the robes and the kneeling benches and you're left, more or less, with Christ crucified and raised. He's the point of it all.

Last Sunday, thanks to a birthday party at The Bookshelf and a canoe trip in Tallahassee, my brother and I both found ourselves back at our parents' church, the church we grew up in. (Chet said it was like sitting next to Liz Lemon in church, which is perhaps the best compliment anyone has paid me, ever.) Jordan, too, attended his parents' church of Christ in Birmingham. And you know, it wasn't too hard to go back. The people are lovely; the singing is beautiful. It was a little bit like going home, albeit knowing the whole while you don't really fit anymore. 

But the sermon -- which seemed to highlight and outline this church's beliefs and differences in doctrine -- felt odd to me, unnecessary. How silly, in a world full of complications, abuses, persecutions, and hurts, to separate ourselves from fellow Christians, from those who believe in the same radical resurrection we do. 

Aren't we supposed to stick together? Don't parents tell their children to watch out for each other at school? Don't they send brothers and sisters to stand by each other and honor each other and help each other navigate the chaos? 

Church wasn't designed to be a denominational pep rally. Sundays weren't created for us to celebrate our differences or to join forces against the church down the road. "The battle isn't against flesh and blood." So Scripture says, and thus I believe.

Do you know why, in this season, I love the Anglican church? Yes, there is kneeling and liturgy and a church calendar and short sermons and beautiful communion. But really? It's a relief each Sunday to go somewhere content with its own beliefs without negating another's, a church that teaches Jesus and proclaims Him while also praying for brothers and sisters -- Baptists, Catholics, and everything in between -- all over the world. A church that unabashedly praises His name and acknowledges itself as set apart, all while taking part in the community around it, the community that needs Him most. 

Amen to that.


swain.d10 said...

This kinda goes with what you were talking about at the beginning:

swain.d10 said...

This is similar to what you were talking about at the beginning: