- I wanted to share my thoughts on an experience I had this Sunday in visiting a Protestant church.
I'm living away from home for a month in order to take some classes. On Sunday, as I looked for a church to attend by searching the internet, all I found were Catholic churches in the area. Unfortunately, there were no Orthodox churches (Oriental or Eastern). My roommates are Protestant and they invited me to their church. So I went for curiosity sake.
It was a Baptist church quite large in size. I initially learned that they have three services going on at the same time in different locations. One is a more traditional service and the others more contemporary (modern). Each service is suited to the needs of the people: those who like the traditional music or the more modern music (with drums, etc.) have a choice. This seemed very odd. I attended the service that my roommate prefers, contemporary.
The service is arranged in this manner: it begins with a praise and worship session (singing), then a short public prayer, lecture, and then ends with a few songs. I could not but think about how this service is any different from a performance. I was surprised I did not have to pay for a ticket!
The service seemed very similar to our prayer meetings. I saw no difference expect when the "pastor" asked to pray for those who want to accept the Lord as their Savior or those wishing to be baptized. How the people felt fulfilled by this service, I do not know.
The service definitely left me feeling empty. As you've probably already noticed, they do not have communion. I later asked my roommate about this and he said they usually have it once a month. I could not believe this. Holy Qurbana is the Holy Sacrifice. God instructs us to eat of His body and drink of His blood so that He can dwell within us. How can you have Sunday worship without communion?
The old saying, you know what you have when you don't have it, definitely applies here. The routine of attending our Qurbana every Sunday, instilled by my parents, was valuable. I felt empty because this routine was not continued by the Baptist service. Building a routine is very, very important when it comes to religion. Our forefathers knew this. We must teach our children to pray daily (even if they complain), attend Qurbana every Sunday, and observe the Lents. It is a foundation that I now see must be established.
Unfortunately, we have a tendency to take these things for granted. We always want to look at the other side of the fence. Speaking from experience, there is not much there! I am not trying to deface the Protestant churches. I know that their more traditional churches share many parts of our service. This is only logical since we were once united under the "Catholic and Apostolic church". But most of the denominations have changed so much that they've lost their identity. And unfortunately, many of them do not know of our church. Most are stuck in their routines. I must admit that they've succeeded in administrative matters way beyond our present capacity. They have pastors, secretaries, advisors, directors, and many more working full-time in their church. Sunday service also consists of classes for all ages, not just the Sunday School. Programs are printed each Sunday since they have so many activities throughout the week. These are areas that our church needs to develop. But the basic fact remains, our Sunday service is unmatched.
Now getting to our service, I see these strong points. We stress the importance of participation of the congregation with songs and responses. The main celebrant is an ordained priest or bishop, not the praise and worship team. We have a united service with everyone, including the small kids. Our senses are employed with bells (hearing), incense (smelling), communion (taste), sharing the kiss of peace (touch), the holy altar and icons (sight), etc. We are constantly using our emotions of praising, thanking, entreating, rejoicing, sharing, etc. We ask for the intercession of those who lived with God. We pray with those who have departed. Our service is complete in so many different ways. It was distressing to see how these other churches miss out on this experience.
It would be appreciated if anyone, especially those outside India, can comment or provide additional thoughts. We grow as we share our God-given experiences with each other so that we can better appreciate the treasures that we hold.
St. Ignatius SOC, Dallas
Member ID # 0892
- Dear honorable members
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