March 24, 2013 – Baptist

Baptists subscribe to a doctrine that baptisms should be performed only for professing believers. Therefore, they don’t do infant baptisms. They also believe baptism should be immersion. Baptists have been diverse from the beginning and even today each church varies on what they believe,  how they worship, and their attitudes towards other Christians.

I got to the church shortly before the service, was greeted with handshakes three times, the last of which was the pastor of the church. I sat somewhere unobtrusive. Then I realized I forgot it was Palm Sunday as someone handed me a palm frond.

Palm Sunday is always held the Sunday before Easter. Palm Sunday commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9), when palm branches were placed in his path, before his arrest on Holy Thursday and his crucifixion on Good Friday. It marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent.

So I held my palm frond as we all waved them as the choir entered down the aisle and the service was about to begin. One woman hit me in the face with hers. Seeing as I was in stealth mode, I did nothing. Anyway, she hadn’t even realized she’d done it. No harm.

The music at this church was BEAUTIFUL. The choir was gorgeous, and they made use of piano, strings, a clarinet, and possibly other instruments I couldn’t see. Talk about praising God with everything you have.

The service was still not too much of a departure from United or Anglican. No Communion this week, but the Anglicans do it every week. The sermon was nice, I learned more about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. I learned that in the book of Luke (several books tell this story) there are no palms. Being raised in the church with palms every Palm Sunday, this surprised me.

And I learned a Roman soldier who won a great victory had a triumphant parade into town around the same time, with armies and a golden chariot and war horses.

And still, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was called the Triumphal Entry, with Jesus on a donkey, surrounded by his disciples, as they enter town crying “Hosanna” and laying clothing at the feet of the donkey, so that it didn’t have to touch the ground.

I prefer the second one, actually. That’s the one I’d be at. What about you?

And I have a confession, dear readers. I would like to slow down this blog because I think today’s church is one I’d like to attend more often. I’d still blog each time I attend some sort of service. If the denomination is the same for a few weeks, or more entries are based off of online bible studies and audio sermons, will you stick around? Let me know in the comments.

 

CHURCH COMFORT RATING: 9/10

March 17, 2013 – Anglican

Today I went to an Anglican church. Anglicanism is a faith based in Christianity, and comes from the Church of England. They see themselves as the middle between Reformed Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. One unique part of the Anglican worship is their Book of Common Prayer, a collection of services that has been used for centuries, and one of the ties that bind the world-wide Anglican churches together.

So today I went to an Anglican service. I walked there from my house, and found I was pretty nervous along the way. I am both excited and nervous to experience faiths that are quite different from what I’ve seen, but I’m starting close to home.

I was raised in the United Church of Canada, and they are a very progressive church, allowing lesbian and gay ministers, gay marriage. I was only a kid, but what I remember from church is nothing scary. But as I grew up and knew myself, I became a transgender, bisexual man and all of the sudden I didn’t fit into anyone’s neat little box, and every church had a different opinion of what they should do with me.

So I always approach churches with trepidation. This time, I got there and the big front doors were shut and no one was going in, so I moved along to the back door near the parking lot. I found my way up to the sanctuary but ended up on the pulpit side. A few people said hi and showed me where to sit. Pews, something familiar. I sat, and read through the bulletin they gave me. A bulletin or Order of Service is a few sheets of paper folded into a book that lists the call and answer prayers, the hymns, and basically, the order the service will go in. That was familiar too.

It was predictable enough, reading-song-standup-sitdown-prayer-repeat, but somewhere near the beginning they did something they called Share the Spirit. Basically, it was “shake as many people’s hands as you can before the organ starts playing.” Now, I mentioned in the first post I have Asperger’s. Shaking hands and looking someone in the eye both at the same time is just something I can’t do. Seriously. There’s a big name for it but it’s a sort of agnosia – the tactile input shorts out my visual sense and turns their faces into meaningless blots of colour and kind of distorts the world around me. So I just stayed where I was, shook every hand that came at me, and hoped I wasn’t appearing rude. Luckily after that I could sit down and try and reboot my visual sense so I could see things properly again. It took a while, there were a lot of hands, but I could hear fine, and I listened to the sermon with my full attention.

Unfortunately I tend to remember obscure things like the floor tile pattern and forget normal things like what the sermon was about. I do remember feeling a connection at one point though – that little bit of Spirit in me felt a connection and my heart felt opened. But it was like the Spirit was telling me, “This is good, what you are doing. Keep it up. But keep going, this is not the one.”

Apparently every Sunday they have the Eucharist, which in United Church I knew as Communion.We all lined up one by one, and moved behind the pulpit to kneel in a circle on a cushion with a rail in front of us. Two parish members brought along first a tiny piece of bread to represent Jesus’s body, which we ate, and then a silver cup of wine, which we sipped from. This is supposed to represent the Last Supper, Jesus’ last meeting with the disciples. At the Last Supper, Jesus predicted Judas’ betrayal, and that Peter would deny/disown him 3 times before the rooster crows the next morning,

I’ve never knelt before a gold-coloured rail on a red cushion to receive communion, but it wasn’t all that different.

After that, the service was over and I went home. I felt like I wished I could do this every day, exercise my faith, find what my higher power is faster. I suppose I just need to learn to wait, to pace myself in this journey.

I’m excited. There is so much to experience, and don’t worry, I’ll share it all with you.

Peace be with you.

 

CHURCH COMFORT RATING: 8/10

What is this?

So what is this all about? I understand that most people feel that a person should be of a certain faith. But not everyone thinks the same faith is the true path to salvation. And not every faith believes that salvation is needed. Sin, or no sin? The rule of three?

I don’t know my path yet. I hear the calling of a higher power, but I don’t know if there is an organized religion that could explain what I feel. I’ve always been very interested in differences in religion in an experiential sense. This blog will document my journey. Within the limits of my city and time and maybe some limits I haven’t thought of like not being welcome by virtue of gender or ethnicity or something else, I will try a new service as often as I can –  a different religion, or a different branch of a religion, like the different branches of Christianity.

I am doing this to help me figure out how to define my own spirituality, but I am also doing it because I have Asperger’s syndrome and it will be good for me to learn to approach new people and assimilate into widely varying groups and it will also help me deal with change.

Will you come with me on my journey of faith and growth?