It's Sunday, nice-ish, not the absolutely gorgeous weather we had earlier in the week but still. I don't attend church regularly, or even irregularly, more like occasionally. I was in the garden playing with my new toy, my camera. Enjoying a coffee outside, in shorts, in Canada, in March. I know, awesome.
The view from my bedroom window
If I didn't leave for work while it was still pitch black outside
Or if I could actually see so clearly out of my window
And the smell
I know, strawberries, in flower, in March
Crane's Bill Geraniums coming on strong
Violets peeking up
Bloodroots about to bloom
My blackberries budding, way too early
And my wild roses too
As I was wandering around, stressing about everything being far too early, a good frost will kill a lot of my newly emerging plants and it is only March, I saw the church just out back of my house.
The mosaic above the entrance
Orthodox Ukrainian Church
I got thinking of all the churches in my neighbourhood. The Mormons, the Baptists, the Christadelphians, the Catholics, Seven Day Adventists, the Jehovah Witnesses, all with in a block or two of my house. I'm sure I missed a few. My area has so many places of worship in it.
This naturally led to pondering the differences, which led to my own experiences. I'm no one's idea of a good Christian. I'm a believer, but a lax one. I'll admit it. I have no doubt of God's plan for my life, I don't have quite as much faith in man's interpretation of what God has planned for my life.That is a whole other post, one I will probably never write. My faith is my own and I'm quite private about it.
I have been baptised twice, Anglican at birth, then later as a Pentecostal. I've attended church often enough, studied the bible as a work of faith and as one of history. I'm familiar with Christianity or at least I thought so.
I've been to a few Catholic services lately, a wake, funeral then just recently a memorial mass. Because there was so much going on during the wake and funeral, I wasn't completely focused on the services. Sure, I noticed things were different but didn't pay a lot of attention. The memorial mass was quite different.
First, we were early. I knew where we were going, no scrambling last minute. I was able to give it my undivided attention, at least at first.
Early on I realised I had no clue what was happening. I didn't know how or even if I should cross myself. I'm not Catholic so didn't want to offend. I avoided the Holy water. then sat quietly in the pew. Looking around, I realised I was way over dressed, the only one in a tie. Then the service started.
Lord's prayer, I know this one. Except I didn't, not the way Catholics say it anyway. Then the blessing of peace, which I liked, but again, no clue. The rosary, the Hail Mary's, the mysteries, even the bible reading, the story of Joseph and the coat of the long sleeves, what no colour?, was not something I was familiar with. Throw in the kneeler, which I tripped over twice, up, down, up, down, up, still up, still up wow, we're standing for a really long time then start the stations of the cross and I felt like a fish out of water. Kind of like that recurring dream, you get to school, there's a test, everyone knows the answers except you, yeah, that one. For an hour and 45 minutes.
It didn't take long for my mind to wander. I wondered about the Holy water. Did the priest make it or did it come in bottled and already blessed? How hygienic were those bowls everybody was dipping their fingers in? What happened when they needed to be cleaned? What do you do with old Holy water? Vampire slayer bulk store? What are communion wafers made of? Are they low fat, gluten free? No wine? Not even grape juice? Why is the priest singing the service in places? Where did the alter boy get those sneakers, or the track pants? Why are there 14 stations of the cross, not 10 or 12? Why so few hymns? What's with the chimes and incense? How do people not trip over these damn kneelers? Truly thoughts worthy of God's house, I know. Then the two priests and two alter boys finished the last station of the cross, filed out the door and left. Service over, what no farewell blessing, nothing?
I left with a profound sense of feeling silly. One for not knowing anything about the how or why of the service I just attended, the other for letting my mind wander so. I realised how easy it would be think, Wow, have they got this wrong. I mean, I didn't recognise anything. Thankfully, I'm not that person.
Even if I couldn't follow the service, I was impressed with the number of young people there. Even dressed in jeans and sneakers. The service was very interactive, engaging the congregation. So it was different, do the details matter?
Quite frankly, I'm pretty sure God could care less. He wants us to worship and come together in fellowship.We're the ones bludgeoning each other over the details of how. Like there is only one way to worship.
Once again, you've taught your wayward son. The power of faith, the blessing of peace and the strength of tolerance. Amen.