Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Lutheran Visitor on Trinity Sunday

Even though I am on vacation, I really did want to worship on Trinity Sunday. It was an interesting process to plan for participating in worship - yet not as clergy and not as a part of my job. It caused me to reflect on all the tiny decisions that lay people must make each Sunday, especially when attending a new church for the first time.

First, I had to choose which church to attend. I have two clergy friends in town who are pastors at a Church of Christ and a Presbyterian Church. I thought of going to these churches. Yet, the Presbyterian service (very close to our house) wasn't until 10:45, and I wanted to be home in time for a Father's Day brunch/lunch prepared by my wife. The Church of Christ service, I suspected, would not acknowledge Trinity Sunday, so I opted out of that. Even though I did not know the clergy there, the service at St. Matthew Lutheran Church started at 9:30, which was perfect. Plus, I assumed that Trinity Sunday would be celebrated by the Lutherans. So I made my choice based on those two variables: liturgical tradition & time of service.

Pulling into the church parking lot, I decided against parking in the "visitor spots." I wanted to be less noticeable than that. It made me think of how creating these "visitor parking spots" might have been a big gesture of welcome to this congregation, yet visitors (like me) don't want to be that conspicuous.

I wasn't really sure where the front door was. I did a quick look at the architecture of the church and figured it out. Luckily, when I pulled on the door, I had chosen correctly. The welcoming area was nosily busy with the sounds of a living Body of Christ. Seeing folks with smiles on their faces made me smile, too.

I was 5 minutes early for the service. A man in front of me turned around and asked me if I was new or if I usually attend the early service. I told him that it was my first time at St. Matthew Lutheran Church. He then inquired if I was from another church. I replied: "Yes, I am from St. Alban's Episcopal Church." He then pressed further: "Episcopal is very similar to us. Now refresh my memory: who is the senior pastor over there at St. Alban's?" I then replied: "I am." My cover was blown, yet we shared a laugh. He was very warm and welcoming. So much so that when the worship service began, I felt very much at home.

The whole liturgy was so similar to the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer that I smiled many times during the service. I was glad (and proud) that the Episcopal and Lutheran traditions have agreed to full communion with each other.

At the Peace, a retired Lutheran pastor (who is a friend of mine from the Greater Waco Interfaith Conference) came all the way from the back of the church to greet me. After the service, several folks (who did not know "who I was") greeted me warmly, as well.

My mother and her German ancestors were Lutherans. It was not until the 1940s that our family began migrating toward the Episcopal tradition. Therefore, it was a good Trinity Sunday to re-find my roots and to see church through the eyes of a lay person, if only briefly.

Thank you to the people and pastors of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Waco for welcoming me and allowing me to worship in spirit and in truth. Thank you for God who is known and worshiped in the varied flavors of denominations. Thank you for God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity.

No comments:

Post a Comment