Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Bryan and I grew up in different Christian faith backgrounds.  He grew up LDS (Latter-Day Saint, or Mormon) and I grew up quasi-Baptist.  Since we've been married, we've visited and attended a number of different churches. In Humboldt County, California, we attended Catalyst, a church in the Emergent strain of theology (you can listen to their message podcasts - they're awesome, very intellectually stimulating).  When we moved here to Jackson Hole, we really struggled to find a faith community that we fit into.  Most of our friends here were either LDS or agnostic, and when we visited a few churches, we just didn't feel that sense of belonging.  I'm not sure I'll ever find a church that makes me go "Yes, this is entirely perfect and I believe everything they're saying and I agree with everything they do."  The church is a body of believers, and since no one is perfect, no church is perfect.  However, the church we go to now is one that we both like, and 90% of the time, we agree with what is being taught.

The interesting thing about our agreement... I think it comes more from the fact that often the things that are taught from the pulpit are not very controversial.  It's an Episcopal church, and it's very "we love you, you're welcome here, come worship with us."  The messages are often straight out of the Bible, and then the Scripture is extrapolated on.  When we attended Catalyst, we often felt very challenged in our beliefs.  I remember Bryan and I driving back from church when we lived one town over; it was about 20 minutes away from our apartment.  After service, one of us would invariably turn to the other and say, "So what did you think about ______?"  We had really awesome discussions and I think it made us both think a lot.  Even very basic things come a lot less basic when you pull them apart and really question them.  I enjoyed the dialogue, the conversation, and the questioning.

I don't really experience that in the church that I attend now.  We do meet for a Bible Study every so often on Tuesdays... it's supposed to be every Tuesday, but with everyone's summer schedules, and it being a small group, that doesn't always work out.  During this time, however, we get to delve into ideas or certain Scripture readings and really tear things apart.  And I really do like it quite a lot.

One thing that the church we attend now has that is different than any other church I have attended is a liturgy.  What is a liturgy you ask?  According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge... after all "anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject, so you know you are getting the best possible information" - Michael Scott, 'The Office'), liturgy is a "set form of ceremony or pattern of worship."  It often includes the Lord's Prayer, readings from the New and Old Testament, and Communion/Eucharist/Sacrament.  And some of it is old school, at least compared to the services I am used to from my experiences.

Even though this church is vastly different from others we've attended together, we do enjoy it.  When I was younger, I attended a slightly-creepy, sorta-cultish now that I look back at it, youth church.  The worship was VERY VERY LOUD, with a full band and boys who wore girl jeans and occasionally eyeliner.  Worship practically REQUIRED that you lift up your hands when you sing, and if you could cry, even better.  It was definitely more of a charismatic service.  While I enjoyed it at the time, I don't think I'd go to a church like that again; I enjoyed the music, but there were other things about it that left me unsettled.

At Catalyst, we had a few different music teams that led worship.  One was a bluegrass band; suffice it to say, Bryan and I LOVED them, especially singing old hymns in a bluegrass style.  Ridiculously awesome.  Sometimes it was a full band and the music was louder.  And sometimes it was one guy with a guitar and one guy on a drum.  There was a nice mix of hymns, current mainstream worship music, and original songs.  I liked it, and when we left Catalyst, I hoped for something similar.

However, we didn't get that at any of the churches out here.  And more and more I realize that worship isn't about music, or a certain style.  It's about giving God respect and honor and showing our love.  And it can be done in lots of different ways.  This was an idea that was impressed on us very often at Catalyst, but being away from that church, and not able to have that kind of music at all, made me realize the truth to it.

And so I've found that I can enjoy things I'm not used to; I can engage in different forms of collective worship and enjoy them just as much as the full band or bluegrass.

So here in a responsive prayer that we shared on Sunday at the service in Moose, Wyoming, at the Chapel of the Transfiguration.

Wild Nature Images
Seriously.  Is that not the coolest little log cabin church you've ever seen?  This is the view of the Tetons from the inside:

The congregation reads the bold-faced type:

Come, Holy Spirit, from heaven shine forth with your radiant love.  Come, Father of the poor; come, generous Spirit; come, Light of our hearts.  Perfect Comforter, you make peace to dwell in our soul: Come Holy Spirit.
Wonderful refreshment, in our labor you offer rest; in our trials, strength: Come, Holy Spirit.
Kindly Light, enter the inmost depth of our hearts: Come, Holy Spirit.
Bend our rigidity, inflame our apathy: Come, Holy Spirit.
Send rain upon our dry ground, heal our wounded souls: Come, Holy Spirit.
Give us lasting joy: Come Holy Spirit, from heaven shine forth with your radiant love.
For many, this form of worship may be business as usual, or what you grew up with; we did have some responsive reading in the church I grew up in.  For some reason, it seems to actually impact me now.

And at service this weekend, the special music was a beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" complete with some original verses that aren't in Jeff Buckley or Rufus Wainwright's versions.  It was lovely.

Even though I've been to many churches in many denominations, I find that the spirit behind the worship is the same in most churches.  Although I never plan to join one denomination over another, I do find the differences and similarities beautiful.  So, lovely readers, do you belong to a religion or denomination? What do you like about it?  What would you share with those interested, if you could?