Appreciating the Episcopals

<%image(20050717-trinity.jpg|79|100|episcopal)%> When you live in a small town you have limited options. 2 gas stations (one being a Stewart’s, the closest thing to a Wawa in these parts), one hardware store, one dairy barn, 2 convenience stores (one with liqour), and there you about have it. Being that it was Sunday, we have been praying about what to do for church and our options were: Catholic, Methodist, or Episcopal. Being that the area has been known as Tory hollow during the revolution (with Tory lane down the road from us), we decided to give the Episcopals a go. I hope none of you question our patriotism. After a Sunday with the Episcopal congregation in town, Julie and I had a few thoughts.

I should first of all note that attending the Episcopal church was not a new experience for us. Julie and I both attended Christ’s Church in Jerusalem, an Anglican congregation (the Episcopal church is the US branch of the Anglicans). Of course Christ’s Church was a charismatic Anglican church with Messianic theology. You never knew WHAT was going to happen on Sunday morning at that place!

In any case, the Episcopal church immerses you in liturgy, which means a lot of scripture readings from the Book of Common Prayer, as well as numerous prayers that have been passed down throughout church history. With a brief, but thought-provoking sermon, we were struck with the nature of the “quality control” in this church. Even if the pastor had been off his rocker theologically or had devoted his time to pithy stories and “do-good” anecdotes, you are still sitting in a service where there is a heck of a lot of scripture being read and a lot of good prayers being recited. The service does not depend on one man carrying the day with his home run sermon. It’s merely a part of the much bigger whole.

To go on, if you like scripture readings, then you have to say that the Episcopal church has a lot more scripture being read than say a Baptist or non-denominational church. The variety was refreshing, even if the Minor Prophets have gotten the shaft in their Lectionaries. Everything during the service was pointing us toward God, and somehow distractions were minimized.

Being a veteran of the worship wars with several Purple Hearts, I found it nice to stick with the old hymns today. I’m not sure if that’s what I would want as a steady diet for worship, but it was good to be in a place where you pretty much knew what you were going to get. Nothing but old, classic hymns. Sure it’s not my style, but at least I didn’t have to wince through cheesy choruses or try to sing for the umpteenth time “Majesty” or “Shout to the Lord” (and in my mind I can see Darlene Z-something throwing her head back and belting it out with the choir in the background . . .). I should note that we’re not committing to this church, I’m just noting what we appreciated.

The sermon was good for me. I don’t mind sermons, but I’m a big fan of short sermons (20 minutes max). I know that guys like Mark Driscoll get up in arms when people get down on preaching, so I won’t. I’ve been deeply impacted by numerous sermons. But 45 minutes to an hour can be a little rough. 45 minutes listening to a professional speaker . . . maybe. And that’s a big maybe. My attention drifts, I get fidgity, or whatever. I did catch myself being the theological hound dog. Why do we critique people’s theology so critically??? While the rector/pastor/etc. did make some comments that we didn’t agree with, he did make some excellent points (such as the parable of the wheat and the weeds does not tell us to find out who the weeds are!).

The other thing that was nice was the coffee time after the service, complete with blueberry buckle and fresh fruit. We met a lot of friendly people who were very interested in helping us get connected and employed.

There is probably more I could say, but that paints a dim picture of what happened this morning and how it struck us. We are definitely not “church shopping”. As we did in Doylestown, we’re praying about what to do for Christian fellowship and worship. The answer there was informal meetings in homes. Here in Arlington we sensed that the Episcopal church down the road was worth a shot. No long term plans are established, but we did certainly appreciate the worship service today.