Plenty have not been the one, and I have tarried a few weeks, seldom longer before moving on. Sometimes I know it at the first step inside the door. This is not my place. God doesn’t speak to me here. I listen. I act. There are plenty of places to wrangle about truth and comfort. I follow the Spirit on where to church myself.
Similarly, the attributes of a church are not always apparent early on. Much must often be worked through, experienced and digested before the finer points of a congregation and its structure can be realized for the precious pearl that it is. Such has been my experience anyway.
I could write volumes day after day of the joy I find in Christ Church. Most of it, I was unaware of until months had gone by. As I become more and more a part of this family, I learn new things that make my choice (the Spirit’s choice) to reside here among these people of faith, the right thing for me.
One thing I realized recently is that Christ Church is a radically open atmosphere in which faith is tenderly received and nurtured. For those of you unacquainted, an Episcopal church is often referred to as “Catholic light,” meaning that we look a lot like a Roman Catholic church in ritual. Dogmatically we are not so much alike.
That means there is a rather extensive list of physical actions that are available. There is genuflecting, deep bowing or head bowing, curtsying, kneeling, sitting, standing, crossing. There is worship with heads and hands uplifted, or not. There are those who sing during communion and those who don’t.
All of these are practiced in my church. Everyone does “their thing” as it were. Most anything is acceptable, though I suspect anyone dancing down the aisle speaking in tongues and waving snakes might meet with some shocked looks and sharp intakes of breath. But you get my point. Rituals are broad, and people execute them as they see fit, more or less.
We in a word, tolerate, some significant differences in our congregation and the means by which they wish to worship. (We actually have two rites, one much more conservative than the other.) Yet we are one family, and we come to, I believe, rejoice in our differences. They cease to be matters of tolerance and become the beauty of the diversity that we are.
We are told each week, that Jesus calls us to the table, not the church. He calls us whether we have been “good” or not so good. The church provides the facility for God’s call and serves in the capacity of “hands” for God.
While this is all well and good as is, there is more to this type of openness I believe. By supporting and upholding us all in our varied personal ritualistic practices, the church draws us toward being more tolerate of each other’s theological differences.
Indeed we have theological differences. And some of them are deep and painful to us. Some of them you know for they are published by article and lawsuit. Yet, we have come to find in the faces of those with whom we disagree fundamentally on some issues, more places where we are able to agree.
I don’t want to make more of this than there is. The disagreements, as I said, run deep. Yet, we are able to still look upon each other as persons with sincere feelings and beliefs. We are not judging each other as evil or intentionally mean spirited. We see the humanity, the face of Jesus more clearly in the faces of those whom we have difficulty understanding.
I have concluded that the openness of our worship practices, the willingness not to be stultifying in our routines, stretches us in ways that pay off when we are called to work out the real issues that divide our faith tradition. It may not make the critical difference, but it helps.
It is another of the many reasons that I find myself so happy in Christ Church. Last Sunday, we were asked to group together in small numbers and discuss briefly why we are here, in this place, in this church. Joyously, I laughed as I turned and realized that my conversation would be with a couple of “visitors” from Minnesota. I was so happy to share my joy with them, and I could see from their faces that my words had an impact.
They are not contemplating driving from Minnesota every weekend of course, but I suspect they will take something home to their parish. Joy spreads, and the reasons for it become known. New ways of seeing and relating are explored. Opportunities become available. We must and should take advantage of each one in furthering the mission of Jesus.
Jesus was about compassion, forgiveness, and in including those who have so often been denied and turned away. We are a welcoming church. We welcome you, should you ever find yourself with nothing to do on a Sunday morning in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.