Liturgical Spin Cycle

Growing up Pentecostal, the faith was focused on experience. Emotional ecstasy was the goal of worship.

About my junior year of college (at a Pentecostal school), a friend of mine invited me to go to church with him.  I was a drama geek at the time and he was the cool rogue guy who was part of the inside group.  I think it was a bit of a b-romance.  I wanted to be like the cool guy.

Anyway he invited me to church.  Most Sundays, I attended Bedside Assembly of God with Brother Blanket and Sister Sheets.  But because I wanted to hang with my friend, I went along.  He drove me to the local movie theater, the meeting place of Light of Life Lutheran Church.  It was my first exposure to a liturgical worship.  I loved it.  There is something very comforting about praying prayers that people long since dead prayed during their lifetime.  It created such a strong sense of community and once I learned the formula, I was on the hooked.

I attended that church until my graduation from college.  When I started working for my alma mater, it was frowned upon if staff did not attend an Assemblies of God (AG) church.  So I did.  For the next three years I grinned and bared it until I got another job.  I was working at another AG school in Seattle, but one of my friends went to the local Episcopal Church.  I visited it and loved it even more.

When I met my wife, I went back to the AG.  Boring…but I loved her, so I went.  We briefly had a stint in the Baptist Church…not my favorite.

Then quite by accident when we moved to Northern Virginia, I attended a Methodist Church.  At the time, it was a very traditional church.  Not quite as liturgical as the Lutherans or Episcopal, but definitely not AG or Baptist.  There were smells and bells and I was happy as a clam.

Sadly, over time, the church became contemporary.  Sigh…Oh well.  It was about this time that I felt called into the ministry.  I prayed for an hour a day.  ½ hour of The Daily Office (Episcopal prayer book), 15 minutes of open dialogue prayer and even 15 minutes of “The Protestant Rosary,” something I found on the internet.

The whole “calling” thing did not work out.  I stopped practicing spiritual discipline.  Eventually, I turned my back on God and faith altogether.

But time has softened me and I am again trying to have a faith dimension to my life.  Prayer has been a struggle, mostly because I got so good at faking it.  I tend to focus on eloquence not content.  But a couple of weeks ago, I found a Kindle version of the Book of Common Prayer.  It automatically drops in all the right scriptures and collects so I do not have to flip pages.  Kindle comes with a voice reader.  It makes it seem that I am not praying along.  I sometimes just listen to the Kindle read the minister parts and I join in the response.

Why do I do this?  I think it is because I have serious doubts about the purpose of prayer.  When I prattle on with my own prayers, it seems empty and lonely.  When I pray the Daily Office, I feel connected.  I am a part of something bigger than myself.  I am sharing with generations of other people who are long since dead.  I am part of the whole.

I still go to a contemporary church with myth wife.  Every once in a while they will throw me a bone in the form of a responsive reading.  But my heart belongs to the centuries old prayers of others.  It may be vain babbling, but it works for me.


4 comments on “Liturgical Spin Cycle

  1. As a self-professed liturgy geek since returning to church a few years ago (Episcopal, raised Roman Catholic in a C&E sort of way), I completely understand where you are coming from. Have you considered attending an 8am service at an Episcopal church and then going to another church later with your wife as a courtesy? I know it sounds a bit off the wall, but I offered it up to my wife at one point while she was considering exploring other denominations. Also, on the prayer front, I would strongly recommend reading The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by Fr James Martin, SJ for a wonderful, real life methodology for Ignatian spirituality. Having a solid pattern for prayer has also helped me, as well as the lessons on detachment et al.

    • As a matter of fact, yes, I have considered going to another church’s 8am service. My son is still a bit young to stay at home along. I am sure he would find it dreadful. But time passes quickly. Soon I will have more options.

      I will check out the book. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Nicely said. Especially the comment about “prattling my own prayers.” This is exactly what I have always felt: when I pray in a Pentecostal mode, I become nothing but an overhead sprinkler during a fire. Take that analogy as far as you like. I did.

    I’m not so into the book of common prayer, although I enormously admire many of the Saints who wrote them.

    Are there any churches left today who haven’t dispensed with their formal liturgies for something more “contemporary”? There’s meaning in that stuff, for we third-generation kids who were raised Pentecostal. I haven’t quite figured out why, but we feel safe there, I think. More understood. To paraphrase what Reagan used to say about the Democrats, I didn’t leave the Pentecostal church; it left me.

    • I think a lot of mainline denominations suffer from what Freud would call Contemporary-Envy. They had a good thing, but they did not know how to “sell” it (There are a lot of damaged Pentecostals out there)

      I went to Mass a couple of times at the local catholic church. I liked the liturgy, but could do without all the hoops and dogma one must subscribe to in order to join the church. You stand out like a sore thumb when you don’t take the Eucharist.

      I think I will start my own denomination and build a compound down in Gianna. Kool-Aid anyone?

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