Matters of Faith #2
The following post is the second in a series I plan to share each Sunday for the next several weeks.
This week, for the first time, I went to church on a Saturday night. Becca’s family attends this church, but not this particular service; therefore I was going solo, which exceeds my comfort zone. I’ve now been to three of the four services that this church offers, all except the traditional, 11 a.m. Sunday service.
I’ve been to the 8:30 Sunday, which is rather traditional, and the one they attend, in-between the others on Sunday morning, which is a contemporary service. It’s what some call, perhaps derisively, “rock’n’roll church”; instead of a choir, there’s a band; instead of traditional hymns, they perform CCM songs with the words on video screens. There’s still a sermon, but it’s the condensed version. The Saturday night service shares the contemporary and casual vibe with a few of the traditional trappings and a somewhat calmer, more contemplative atmosphere. Each of these three services have aspects I like, but none feel like the perfect fit.
I don’t know yet if I want to make this my church. It’s close, and it feels fairly inviting; small enough that you could have a sense of community, but large enough to have multiple services and several study groups, outreach opportunities, etc. It’s an affiliated church, though (UMC) and I’ve really wanted to go somewhere non-denominational, as I feel denominational thinking has long been a plague upon American churches.
The other church I tried, since deciding to go back, is Presbyterian, but in name only, it seems. The pastor there works hard to integrate examples of similar concepts in other major religions and from philosophers. This church actively welcomed LGBT members, which is a huge plus to me. They also did things such as going out of the way not to use gendered language– even refusing to say “the Lord” because of its patriarchal connotations (they substitute “The Holy One”) and interpreting all scripture, it appeared, as metaphorical.
In the case of the Nativity, for example, he said there were no angels or singularly super-bright star in the sky, because otherwise everyone would have been there falling on their knees, and it wouldn’t be a “silent” night. He was saying that for the shepherds, hearing the angels sing was really an internal feeling, a calming of the spirit within they could feel because of their simple faith, and so on. But some of his statements seemed to be questioning the sanity of believing in the virgin birth. When I perceive extremes like that, I start to feel a bit uncomfortable.
Church is a great place to stand and sing and sit and listen, surrounded by like-minded people. But all churches I come across say their true purpose is to welcome the hurting and the lost. Can that be accomplished in a worship service? Sermons are essentially lectures, which are generally not the most effective teaching method. In the Gospels, in most cases, when Jesus was teaching, people asked him questions: the disciples, to clarify; local listeners, to believe; Pharisees, to bait. I know we can find such back-and-forth in a Bible study class, but why not in a worship service? If we all have a personal relationship with God, aren’t we all co-pastors?
I have a lot of questions, as I am sure most of us do. I want to discuss the scriptural support for various beliefs, but I also want to analyze beyond just quoting chapter and verse. Many of them are the God-paradox questions, i.e. if God is x, how can y be? I’m sure you can anticipate most of those questions, but I want to save them for next week. I also want to discourse with people who are willing to be open-minded about other religions and belief systems. I don’t necessarily believe that “all religions are true”– I can’t see how you could reconcile some of the divergences– but I do believe that there is truth and wisdom to be found in them all. I also believe that science is humans’ means of discovering the wonder of God’s design. To deny science is to deny the power God has endowed us with to inquire and discover, and there is no valid reason for science and religion to be incompatible. Again, that will be the subject of a future post. Have a blessed day, my friends.