My husband and I attended another new church last Sunday. They talked about Lent and had read along prayers and call and response statements. While we were flipping frantically through our bulletin to figure out where we were supposed to be reading from, it hit me. The Christian church is unbelievably dynamic and I still know so little. I write a lot about Christian beliefs and values, but what does that even mean? Though both Charismatic and Baptist churches are Christian, they are so foreign to each other. I grew up in a Baptist church for the mot part and if someone raised their hand during the singing, people would crane their necks around to see just what the heck was going on. When I was little my mom and I went to see Joyce Myers speak. She started speaking in tongues and my Mom and I looked at each other as though we’d accidentally been thrown into a Satanic cult. The church that we attended last Sunday is very unlike a charismatic church, but not very similar to our Baptist church either. In their discussion about Lent, I realized that I really had little idea experience-wise what Lent was. We never even mentioned Lent growing up, Easter of course, but not Lent. To be honest, I didn’t hear it until college.
And what about all the different things we call the person who gives the sermon? Reverend, Pastor, Father, Bishop, etc. I grew up with a Pastor. What’s the difference between them? It seems to me that some hint at hierarchy, but that’s probably because those are the churches who have a hierarchy. What about worship? Do you sing hymns and stand stock still? Do you raise hand when you feel the Spirit? Do you dance and clap? And what about the sermon? Can you lose your salvation? Is it a Republican tirade? Have you heard it all before? Do you have choral readings? Do you sit then stand then sit and kneel? Are there healings? Does your Pastor (Rev., Minister, Father etc) shout? Tell stories? Wear a robe? A suit? Jeans?
How can my own religion, which I have been a part of my entire life and studied in college, be so completely foreign to me? In some ways, I find it comforting. I”m not very happy with the Christianity that I was raised into, so it’s kind of nice to think that I can still be Christian and not be like the people in my childhood church. At the same time, how can people reading from one book get so many different ideas about what it’s saying and how we should worship? Is the separation a positive thing or does it keep us from dealing with different viewpoints as valid within our own faith system?