Monday, 11 September 2017
Yesterday (Sunday), I went to the early morning service at our local Anglican church. I have a friend who attends there, so I had someone to sit beside in the service, as well as at the coffee/fellowship time afterwards (I'm not very good at going places where I don't know anyone). And I chose the early morning service as they use the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) rather than the updated more ecumenical 11 a.m. service. I also appreciate the more traditional hymnal. And I could still attend the Sunday morning gathering of the small house church I've been a part of for a number of years.
The thing is, much as I love our little home gathering, somehow I really miss the depth of the traditional Anglican liturgy with its many scripture readings, prayers, and hymns, as well as the liturgy of the Eucharist. There is such a sense of unity through time and place--the whole "body of believers" who comprise the universal church. On the other time, at our home gathering, I appreciate the opportunity for everyone to share their thoughts and experiences related to their spiritual journey (and the potluck breakfast is pretty awesome, too, right?).
It seems pretty wonderful to me that Christ-followers really are a vast throng of believers from many places and traditions and cultures and even doctrinal "fine points," but centered on Jesus.
For a number of years, I swung from the "evangelical Protestant" church style and doctrinal statements of my upbringing to a "free, organic, home-based church" style based (to some degree) on what we can glean about the early church from New Testament scriptures. I had reacted strongly to a couple church break-ups I had recently experienced and was searching for a more "perfect church." I have come to the conclusion that only our Lord is perfect ... and that the church as a body of believers is bound to reflect (as it should), like a kaleidoscope, the vast variety and creativity beauty of its members, who are so different and unique--created as amazing individuals by their Creator, but brought together into a complex, but simply centered, unity with Him. Along my life long journey, I've attended and participated in a wide variety of "denominations" as well as exploring and building close friendships with people from still other traditions. While I see the value of, in some senses, "committing to" a local group of the church, I am more and more convinced that we also need to know and love our brothers and sisters from many traditions, and learn from and support each other in our journey together.
In reflection, I feel as though my personal journey itself has been a beautiful kaleidoscope. The further along I go, the less I am certain of all the "details" (doctrinal fine points some people are so concerned about and convinced are the only truth) but the more convinced I become that our unity in Christ, who is Truth, is what holds us together and creates the sunlight that makes the journey worthwhile and real, even with all its unexpected moments, twists and turns, and yes, wonderings and doubts and wilderness time.
I am grateful to my times spent in Anglican, Alliance, Free Methodist, Faith Gospel, Nazarene, Anglican, Pentecostal, non-denominational evangelical with a Pentecostal flavour, Anglican, Mennonite Brethren, Baptist, home church... and again, Anglican (there seems to be a pattern, a feeling "at home" to the latter!) Christian churches that have opened their doors and hearts to me--not to mention dear friends from many other traditions who have also shared their hearts with me, and from whom I've learned so much--Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Judaism, etc. And I also appreciate my deep friendships with those who are also seeking truth through alternative paths such as traditional indigenous beliefs, Mormonism, the Watchtower society, universalism, Baha'i, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhs, Islam, new age, and so on. We may "agree to disagree" about some things, but in all these paths I see reflections of our Creator's love and goodness, His reaching out to us.
I know that last paragraph may be distressing to some of my friends who are so sure of the exact rightness of their particular doctrines and creeds, in contrast to all others. I am sure that God knows their hearts just as He knows mine, and I trust his Spirit to, in the end, draw each of us into His Truth, which in our humanness here on this little planet, is far larger and more amazing (and Truthful) that we can imagine. And perfect. His perfection, not ours.