Last night, really for the first time since I have been the pastor here, I officiated at a communion service at a sister congregation. In our Lenten rotation it was my turn (finally, after nearly 5 years) to head to Redeemer, Pastor Hall's congregation, and Pastor Hall thought it would be good to have a communion service for the Annunciation instead of the normal lenten series we had been doing.
As Redeemer does things different than Zion, there were many things that I got to do which I hadn't done since I had been here. I got to chant more than just the intro line to the Gloria in DS III (and Mrs. Hall said I wasn't that far off key - I was at points, but just needed practice), there were kneelers for communion. . . even had two assistants for distrubution, so I only had to worry about distributing our Lord's Body (here I also handle the chalice for anyone who hasn't taken individual as well). A choir sang in Latin. . . cha cha cha! (And I could translate the Latin, which was sort of neat, too) It went very well (only attempted to commune one gal who wasn't confirmed, but she waved me off. . .) and I enjoyed it thoroughly. . . but. . . .
It was. . . different than being here. I've gotten used to the way things are done here. This past 5 years is the longest stretch in my life where I have been at one Church and one Church alone. . . really ever (I had a 5 year stretch that ended when I was a fourth grader). Things have gotten comfortable for me here - and the differences stood out. Redeemer's communion ware is very heavy and nice (the first time I went to lift the chalice, I basically didn't pick it up. . . you have to be careful how hard you pull up lest you slosh!), and their temporary sanctuary during their building project is by far the most well designed one I've seen. Communing 30 or so at a table is different than communing 8 to 10 all huddled up front here.
So what is the response I have?
1. An appreciation for home. It's not that I appreciate my own congregation more now - rather I realize just how much I have come to appreciate the things here.
2. And understanding of the difference between congregations. I had heard over and over from people how another place "just isn't the same." And that IS true - there are differences, and when you have gotten used to something, you've gotten used to something.
3. The importance of the unity of liturgical worship. Yet even as I saw those differences, what I saw was that more wondrous truth that in spite of the local variations and slight differences in custom - it's the same Church, same Lord, they are truly our sister congregation (indeed, come what may in this world of sin, I'm pretty sure that Redeemer will remain our sister congregation) and that there is a unity that is beyond. . . beyond what we are used to talking about. Even though it was different -- if for some reason I had to be there regularly (as a parishoner. . . panic not Hall, I'm not after your job. . . although that wireless mike you have IS nice) it would still be home. And that's something that we in our individualistic country today need to remember.
Just some thoughts for the day.