Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple

Today was the first Sunday I have gone to an actual church back in the United States.  Wait, you mean I’ve been here all summer and haven’t been to church?  No, I’ve been to church…at camp.  Camp church doesn’t really count as church in the states because, well, it’s camp.

As I stood for the singing and sat through the sermon, I couldn’t help but think back a little bit to San Giovenale, with it’s frescoed walls and ornately carved marble altar.  It was a very different church experience, I have to say.  It was weird today being able to understand the service.  There are definitely things that I valued about the Italian services.  Among them are:

  • The way that the entire service is constructed toward the eucharist.  Granted, I never partook of the eucharist in Italy because I am not Catholic and do not believe the same things about the eucharist, but everything in the service is still aimed at reminding the congregation of their role in the body of Christ and his sacrifice through the eucharist.  Some churches in the states hardly even do communion now.
  • The feeling of being one body that is present.  In Italy, you truly are part of the one holy catholic church.  All of the churches are under the pope.  I’m not saying that Catholicism is right about everything, and this effort at unity did drive some people away in the past, but when you’re worshipping in Italy, and you say in the apostles’ creed or whatever it is that you are part of one holy catholic church, you really are.  They all have the same bulletin.  They all read from the same lectionary.  Tradition is not always good, but sometimes it is.
One thing that I was reminded of yesterday, though, is that we may seek to change some things in our culture, but we also need to acknowledge the good that exists already.  If we approach a culture already thinking that everything is bad and needs change, we won’t get anywhere.  And there are things that I think are valuable in American church services.  The effort that we take to personalize our faiths is something that is valuable, and makes us stronger in times of tribulation.  There’s a balance between the community aspects of faith that are in Italy and the individualistic faith of the Western world.  The individual concept often leads to a greater passion among the participants, which can be really great.  A lot of American churches also seek God in a more approachable way.  Again, a balance between the terrifying judge of the Old Testament and the friend that we often convey God as.  They are both important.
So let’s find the happy medium.  I don’t think that will ever happen, but I can dream, can’t I?

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