Part of the reason I am so optimistic about the work of the church in the world relates to my two and a half years at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Massachusetts. Not only did I meet Rocky there, but I encountered some of the most authentic Christians I am privileged to know. There were students from numerous denominations plus an incredibly fine, well-studied and approachable faculty. For one of my first classes I had a youth ministry course taught by Dean Borgman, the founder of the Center for Youth Studies. At the beginning of my first semester we had an exercise where we described a bit of our spiritual backgrounds. I remember saying, not particularly fondly, that I was raised Roman Catholic and that “we read our prayers out of a book.” It turned out that the professor was an Episcopal priest.
In the early years after becoming Protestant I did not have a great appreciation for having been brought up Catholic. Now I can look back and see positive influences. One thing that I catch myself doing off and on during the week is praying through different parts of the Mass. It is amazing that I can still remember some of the things that we recited each week forty years ago. “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.”
It doesn’t get more God-honoring and Trinitarian that that. Each week we either proclaimed “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” or “ Dying you destroyed our death. Rising you restored out life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.”
Some people prefer a worship service with responsive readings, reciting of the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed, and printed prayers. For them, the liturgy is comfortable and meaningful. C.S. Lewis, an Anglican theologian and author, wrote that it was not dancing if you had to count the steps. Others like church services to be less predictable and find it rote or stale to recite prayers or readings.
Whatever our preferred style of worship, it is crucial for us to focus on the interior life and not just on the Sabbath. We should practice the presence of God. Each day should include intimate, friendly conversation with God. Scripture should play a major part in our devotions. The author of Psalm 119: 11 wrote “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”