Friday, December 21, 2007

My religious background, part three

To make a long story short (which I doubt is possible at this point) I decided I should visit some other churches in some other denominations. The problem was that I lived in a small town. Unless somebody in the family was sick, we were in church every Sunday. If I all of a sudden showed up at another church on Sunday, people would assume we were mad at our minister or something. Plus my wife and kids were perfectly happy at our church, so who was I to rock the boat? What I finally decided was to make a point to attend churches of other denominations whenever I found myself out of town on a Sunday.

So one week we went on vacation to a pretty little town in the North Carolina mountains. In downtown Blowing Rock, North Carolina was St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church. All I knew about Episcopalians was that they usually celebrated communion every week and I enjoyed worship services with communion. I had been to a service at an Episcopal Church with a friend once in high school and I remember being very confused about which book to use, but I thought, hey, I'm a college graduate, surely I can follow along now.

Well I went. And I was wrong, I still didn't have much of an idea where they were in the service and kept mixing the bulletin and the prayer book and the hymnal. But here's the thing: I loved it. It was so completely different from any worship service I had ever been to before. From beginning with a processional (we usually only did that at Easter) to all the candles, multiple acolytes, a cross being carried in, etc., etc. They even had incense. I'd never seen such a thing in my life. But here is the kicker: Real Wine. Let me repeat that: Real Wine. I'd never had anything but grape juice in little plastic cups and here I was drinking actual wine out of a common cup. I felt like I was doing something scandalous.

But it felt so very right. I know there is much controversy about the Episcopal Church. I'll talk more about that later when I discuss why I'm not sure they are the correct answer for me. But I will always be grateful for them allowing me to experience liturgy and Eucharist like I had never experienced before. I understand why the Catholic Church does not allow open communion, but I sometimes wonder how many opportunities for evangelism are missed because of it. Anyway I was very happy, and thought I might have found a home. Next, I'll try to explain why I'm not so sure about that anymore.

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