Sunday we visit another small church. I expect a traditional, liturgical service. The sanctuary is simple, filled with color and symbolism. Several lit candles mesmerize as incense fills the air. A worshipful instrumental piece, courtesy of a CD, plays in the background.
The music stops and the opening liturgy begins. We hear the minister but don’t see him. He enters the sanctuary and performs a series of rituals, perhaps preparing the altar for worship. His actions produce a mystical aura, both comforting and confusing.
Ornately attired, he wears a combination of what I suspect a priest and a rabbi might wear for their respective services. The liturgy progresses and we follow along in the Book of Services: The Celtic Episcopal Church.
One member has already prepared us for the liturgy. Now, each time the service jumps to a new section in the book, she slides up behind us, whispering the page numbers. We appreciate her assistance.
To start his message, the minister looks at the congregation for the first time. He smiles, suddenly affable. The service, once solemn, now becomes casual. The sudden switch from the formal to informal confronts me with a contrast I can’t fully grasp.
His concise message lasts only ten minutes. Then we celebrate communion and with more liturgy, conclude the service in the original reserved manner. Without any singing, the meeting ends an hour after it started.
Although most foreign to me, this tiny church and their worship intrigues me. I want to learn the meaning behind their rituals, understand the history of their practices, and discover the rhythm of their liturgy. It’s there but will take repeated exposure for me to grasp and then to embrace it.
Though they worship God much differently than is my normal my practice, it’s no less viable and offers valuable illumination. I want to learn more.