Monday, November 29, 2004

What a Weekend -- Sunday

Something that really does make worship more fun is gospel music.

On Sunday, I attended church with my husband and Larry and his family for the baptism of Larry's grandson. The service was at an Catholic African-American church and featured gospel music. I'd never been to an African-American service of any kind before and it was such a treat. Besides being enjoyable and entertaining, I found it exciting and spiritually meaningful as well. I've attended many Catholic Masses and maybe only one Catholic baptism and this service followed in the same manner with the addition of gospel music and a vitality that I'd never before experienced in any church.

I was probably most affected by the liturgy of the Word. The Catholic service is nearly identical to the Episcopal service in this regard. I'm a lay reader at my church, so I get to read the lessons at my church sometimes. I love the Bible, so the liturgy of the Word is one of my favorite parts of the service. While I love reading the Bible, sometimes, the reading of the Psalm sounds much like a funeral dirge, even when the refrain is something along the lines of 'rejoice in the Lord who saves us.' Always seems so funny to me to hear such an idea sort of mumbled. Not in this church -- the psalm was song by a man with such a strong, deep voice and a woman, joined by the congregation, sang the refrain. Powerful. Can't say I took much notice of the Epistle. But, the Gospel reading. Wow -- the prelude was singing 'alleluia' to gospel music. Just that one word, alleluia, over and over, louder and stronger with this sense of anticipation as the deacon held up the Gospel book and climbed up into the pulpit. It was amazing to me, I could only think, wow, we are going to hear the Gospel lesson now, the Word of the Lord, announced the way it should be, with excitement and thanksgiving and awe. I was already well familiar with the Gospel reading because the Catholic and Episcopal lectionaries choose the same passage and I had been preparing to lead a Bible study at my church before I was invited to the baptism [Many thanks to Rob the llamabutcher for leading in my absence].

The baptism was beautiful, as all baptisms are. This was amazing again, because the baptismal font is in the back of the church, attached to a baptismal pool which I imagine is used for immersion adult baptisms (at least it looks as if it could be). As the baptismal candidates, their parents, godparents, the priest and deacon headed to the font in the back of the church, the choir and congregation sang 'take me to the river to be baptised.' It was wonderful.

I think the final part of note was the Lord's Prayer -- whoops, sorry, Catholic church, the 'Our Father.' The congregation joined hands across the center aisle of the church. Larry was beside me, chose not to join hands, but assisted me in joining hands with the woman to his right, someone we did not know. The congregation prayed the Our Father, which ends with 'deliver us from evil.' Luckily I'd been to enough Catholic services to know that the priest says something and then the congregation finishes off the prayer (or at least I'd call it finishing it off since we Protestants use a longer version). The priest said his part and the congregation, still joined by hand, raised their hands in the air to pray 'for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever' [I don't think they include 'and ever']. At that point, with my hand joined to the woman's hand, Larry put his hand over both our hands.

After the baptism, my husband and I joined Larry and his family back at his son's house. We had met the other set of grandparents on the way to the church. At the house we met many more friends and relatives and neighbors and ate lots and lots of wonderful food. I am not mentioning Larry's son's name nor his wife's only out of respect for their privacy [not everyone wants to be on someone's blog], but they were absolutely wonderful hosts. Open and welcoming and kind and interesting. Many thanks to them for inviting us to share their special day -- remember, I was just some wacko Larry met in cyberspace and had never met any of them in person, not even Larry (there was a small link with Larry's son -- he and I went to the same school for one year a decade ago, though I'm not sure we ever met).

I mentioned in my last post that I'm not impressed with anyone, we are all equally deserving of love and respect. I guess I'd amend that to say I'm very impressed with people like Larry's son and daughter-in-law who are so gracious in their hospitality. I've met many other gracious hosts and I am impressed with their ability to open their homes and welcome people. I know hospitality is valued and encouraged in many religions and cultures. To me it is the essence of Christianity, it says, 'come, I have more than enough, let us enjoy God's grace together.'

What a weekend.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Marjorie. And delighted with your description here. You pointed out many things that I overlooked. I've been out of conventional services so long that I didn't perceive the obvious superiority of this service over many I attended in the past.

I've resolved to stop knocking the Church and only hereafter talk about its positive values.
(I know Meredith will approve of that!)

Comparing this form in worship in my mind with the cool, unemotional Quaker meeting makes me aware that Quaker worship is certainly not for everybody.

Many years ago I understood that the church at its best makes a strong emotional appeal to the members-- a dimension of life many of us have lost. The people of St Augustin get a real charge from their mass. Quakers of course are stirred in other ways; some need one and some the other. To find them both together would be definitely a 'colony of heaven'.

Thanks for your post.

Larry said...

That was me of course. Why do I forget to
check the Larry instead of the default anonymous.