Eleven different ways of experiencing Christianity—Part 4
There are many ways of seeing yourself as a Christian. You can add another as your faith grows, you can have more than one at a time and you can move through them over some time.
I am going to look at this through Advent this year. None of them is wrong when taken in context with the others; all of them are wrong on their own. The list is not exhaustive.
A set of rituals you practice
Ritual is important in people’s lives, whether they call them ritual or not. Sportspeople having to warm up in a certain way is a ritual, so is going on holiday (vacation if you are from the US). Taking a trip abroad has ritualistic properties, as you can see if you use the waiting time in an airport for people-watching. Taking time out from your daily regime to go somewhere else you end up in a travel life and when the travel life ends you then return to where you were before doing what you did before, but you are enriched with the experience of travel. Holidaying and pilgrimage can fulfil the same role psychologically, though not all travel is similar to a pilgrimage.
To some, the ritual is at the heart of their Christianity. Some take their liturgy very seriously and are upset if there are any changes, you could get funny looks if you stand or kneel at the wrong time. Thankfully, not all those on the church’s liturgical side see liturgy as the most important thing. One priest called his vestments fancy dress, not in a bad way, but that a bit of a spectacle helps people to worship, another told me that on his first curacy he put on the vestments, checked in the mirror to see if they were on straight and thought, “You make this look good.”
But doing these things. especially where the liturgy is elaborate and only works where the meaning of the action is known. Smoke from an incense burner is a symbol of the prayers of the people ascending to heaven-seeing the smoke reminds us to pray.
In one church a friend says he witnessed the congregation genuflecting (Kneeling on one knee with the head bowed) towards the vestry at the end of the service. When he asked the reason he found out that the reserved sacrament (elements of Holy Communion that have previously been consecrated) used to be kept in a side chapel which was there.
Some Christians say that their worship is non-liturgical. but they are wrong. There are no non-liturgical churches. Any church where the service follows a format, no matter how loosely, has a liturgy. Even if the plan they follow is not written down in a book they still have a liturgy.
It’s all about Jesus
Christianity is all about Jesus Christ, that’s where the name comes from. Liturgy is there to point people towards Jesus. I attended a high Anglican church for a while and I can say that it does a great job in doing that for many who attend that service, people do have a relationship with Jesus, and at renewal services, in the early days of the Charismatic movement, it was Roman Catholics and Anglo Catholics who helped my faith grow in the Holy Spirit and my relationship with Jesus deepened as a result. Faith is as real in the churches with a set liturgy as it is in less colourful churches and nominal Christians are as real in churches with less formal liturgy as it is in those with vestments and incense. Do not believe the accusations that fly over service type, I believe the accusers would be better to look at themselves and tackle their own problems.
I am asking you to look at yourselves, do you really know Jesus as well as you should? I am asking that question of myself as well.