Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ecumenical Shenanigans

As part of my spiritual well being, I generally like to attend church services at other places when I get the chance. I cannot describe how refreshing it is to just be able to sit in the pew and participate in a service without having to do anything official.

Sunday mornings for me are still worshipful, but being a parishioner in the pews and being an ordained person with things to do in the liturgy are two different ball games entirely. You just can't sit and let your mind ponder the Holy Mysteries for too long as a liturgical leader, as you are always having to be mindful of what is going on in the service and what comes next. You can't be so caught up in the operations of the liturgy that the service really has no deeper meaning for you, but you also can't let your mind wander too far a field.

There is not, unfortunately, an Episcopal church in Lincoln that does a Saturday eve service or Sunday night service. Thus, if I want the opportunity to go to a worship service on the weekend other than my official duties as a transitional deacon, I am left with attending another denomination.

Basically there are three major options. This is a nice Roman Catholic church within walking distance of my apartment, which always has a Saturday vigil service at 4PM. I am always amazed at how packed that particular service is. They also have a 5pm mass on Sundays, but I am usually too liturgied out tired on Sunday afternoons to go to another church service and get anything out of it. There is another church which does a Latin mass (which I actually enjoy), but its across town and at odd times. The Catholic Diocese of Lincoln is also ueber-conservative. The chalice is not available to the laity, nor are the women members of the altar guild allowed to actually touch anything on the altar. What can I say? Birettas: They Happen...

I am a rosary-praying, fairly conservative Anglo-catholic, but sometimes even I am a bit uncomfortable with what I see in the Catholic churches around here. (Birettas excluded). About a month ago, in lieu of a sermon, they played some pro-life DVD the diocese put out. I am hard pressed to find a biblical and/or moral-ethical argument that I find convincing for contraceptive abortion, but I am also largely conflicted on the issue. I remember being hacked off by that video, however, because like most ardent pro-life (and pro-choice) people, it was manipulative to the point of being emotional and political propaganda. There is not too much in the day to day operations of the church that make me angrier than walking away from the Mass and feeling like I have been politically manipulated by a particular preacher or priest misusing the pulpit to ride his (or her) political hobby horse. (This was largely one of the reasons I ended up quietly boycotting the weekly Dean's Mass my senior year at Seabury.)

In any event, I am not trying to drum up conversation on the abortion issue or the Roman Catholic church. (Remember, I try to avoid testy political diatribe on this blog.) Other churches can run their worship and sermons as they see fit, and its not really any of my business since I am not an adherent of that branch of Christianity. Certainly I hear enough political hogwash from my own denomination that I really should not critique others. (I will resist a rant about the Millenium Development Goals fad and how the Episcopal Church seems to be dependant on the United Nations to both point us to the poor people and to tell us what to do with them.)

My point is that it took me some weeks to want to go back to a Saturday vigil mass at that parish. In that time, I let my fingers do the walking and tracked down a few other Christian religious services that I had the time to attend on occasion. There is a Seventh Day Adventist church (also about 6 blocks from where I live) that I popped into one day. The door was open, which surprised me. There was some free literature on the table, which I took. I read up on them; they seem a bit kooky but nothing too dreadfully bizarre. I might pop in one Saturday morning for liturgical kicks, just to see how they do things.

My ecumenical adventures also led me to a (get this...) a Ukranian Orthodox Church that does Vespers at 5PM on Saturday and Compline at 5:30 on Wednesdays. The church has been there for quite some time, and is largely a converted house. Due to the 4 Overtime Tennessee-Kentucky football game extravaganza, I missed the 4PM mass at the Catholic church. (If I had known it was going to go to 4 OTs, I could have gone to mass and been back in time for the final OT.)

To repent for my gluttonous football sins (4 and a half hour game!), I decided to take the opportunity to hit up Vespers. I had been meaning to go for sometime. It was a short service, and was basically me, the priest, and the deacon. They usually didn't get too many people for the Saturday service, so they were happy to see me. Coincidentally, I know the feeling since starting regular Evening Prayer here at St. Mark's. We chatted a bit after the service, and I think they were happy that a sane Episcopal (soon to be) priest was in town. The next afternoon, the deacon called me since I had signed the guest book. We chatted for quite some time. He was born into an Ukranian refugee camp in World War II. He was the real deal in terms of Ukranian Orthodox.

He invited me to their weekly compline service and seemed to be rather excited about the idea of doing some sort of pan-Orthodox-Anglican ecumenical compline service at some point. I am going to go down there after work and see what Orthodox Compline looks like. This could be interesting.

Incense and icons...I like the sound of this.

No comments: