“Set out, pilgrim. Set out into the freedom and the wandering. Find your people. God is much bigger, wilder, more generous, and more wonderful than you imagined.” Sarah Bessey
I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church in the heart of Texas, I visited a Catholic Church a small handful of times, and then in college I spent a few short years exploring other options. Namely I was into Buddhism, meaning I was a white girl that owned a ‘zen book,’ a book by Thich Nhat Hanh and went to yoga class while living in the remote mountains of New Mexico. After I’d had enough of that I moved back to Texas and got involved in a non-denomination church with roots in the United Pentecostal Church movement. The polar opposite of my “Father, Son, and Holy Bible” upbringing Life Point was a very charismatic Holy Spirit filled church. The song I remember singing most was “Spirit Break Out” by Kim Walker-Smith. I was exposed to speaking in tongues at this church, and made a handful of friends that felt a deep connection to this ‘happy clappy’ expression of faith as Sarah Bessy endearingly calls it.
Moving to England exposed me to more of this expression. At an Assemblies of God church called The Bridge I discovered more about this beautiful, even if somewhat controversial, form of worship. We had regular prophesies, people speaking in tongues, people offering interpretations, and even anointing with oil were common practices. I cherished this new found expression of my faith. I enjoyed the very apparent supernatural experiences happening to me and my co-worshipers. Although my time in England is somewhat tainted by some relational pitfalls, I truly and earnestly loved the discovery of this style of worship.
I was sad to leave this church because I knew coming back to America would almost certainly remove me from this expression. And it did. After a few short months attending a bat-shit crazy church in Texas that I won’t name because I think you’re safer staying away, (friends that attend this church, I am glad you love it and feel at home there, I never did) I moved to Oakland, California and jumped into Regeneration church.
Regeneration, although a part of the Calvary Chapel network, doesn’t feel too strongly tied to that connection. Regen offers a unique worship experience with somewhat solemn, but very sincere and spirit filled, song choices and Biblical teaching that is at the same time relevant and heady. A fine balance. It is at Regeneration that I have become more exposed to liturgy.
Regeneration is only about 9% liturgical if I had to put a number on it. I’ve been to Catholic Mass a handful of times so I know what full blown 100% liturgy looks like, but imagine Regen as a gateway drug. Here I have discovered a deep void and need in my life for candles, common prayer, stained glass, and the eucharist.
I’m finding that I am increasingly discovering and desiring God in these ritual acts of worship in the same way I experienced and discovered God in my charismatic past, or in my systematic theological Baptist upbringing.
The oft quoted proverb from Solomon is true for me, for everything there is a season. The season I am finding myself in now is not one of bold expression, or radical practice.
This is a season of discovering a new facet of the same gem; a season of solemn, ritual, purposeful, liturgical worship.
Sarah Bessey’s book Out of Sorts helped me parse though this, and the book Mercy in the City by Kerry Weber jumpstarted my full wandering into liturgy.
Mercy in the City is a book I truly believe was divinely given to me. The Oakland Library by chance suggested it to me and because I judge books by their covers I downloaded it onto my Kindle. In this book Webber details her experiences attempting to fulfill 7 corporal acts of mercy during Lent while living in bustling NYC and strictly following Lenten dietary restrictions. Informally and commonsensically she draws in the reader and provokes, sways, and motivates you to join her. Wherever you are, whatever denomination you find yourself in, discover more of God.
I cannot more highly recommend this book. I plan to read through it again during Lent, hoping to channel her fervor and zeal.
So, whats my plan now? Do I dive headlong into liturgy? Absolutely not and absolutely yes. My hope for myself is that I can take a pinch of this, a dash of that, a smidgen of the other thing and begin seeing a fuller picture and expression of God.
God is so personal and I so often forget that. Denominations are well and good, mostly but God is mine and I am his. I am free to worship Him in ways I see fit. That might mean lifting my hands high and speaking somewhat incoherent phrases under my breath, it might be intently reading or studying God’s word, or it could be lighting a candle and spending time lamenting before God.
I pray that you will continue discovering new and undiscovered facets of God in your life. If, like me, you’re currently in awe of liturgy then Lent is a wonderful time to embrace that. Do some Googling, find some liturgical services happening near you, visit a new church, participate in the Stations of the Cross as I plan to do.
You’re probably going to feel out of place; it’s new, you’re not sure what’s happening or what that Latin word means, it’s okay. Google it later and in the mean time settle in God’s majestic almighty expansive, endlessly faceted character. Know that I too will be feeling awkward and like a noob as I begin this pilgrimage.
Want more info:
Sarah Bessy has some great resources on her blog today here. Check them out.
And read the book Mercy in the City by Kerry Webber.
“The thing is, it’s easy to imagine yourself doing great works of mercy. It’s easy to have good intentions. What’s difficult is that follow-through, because God didn’t challenge us to commit to the Corporal Works of Mercy for forty days. God challenges us to commit to a lifestyle—and a lifetime—of mercy.” Kerry Webber
“But make no mistake: I wasn’t longing for “more candles” or a cool new experience to chase. I was craving Jesus. Desperately. Not seven steps to a better life, not practical how-to stuff for the week ahead, not more sermons about “what women really want.” I certainly wasn’t longing for vestments and hierarchy, smells or bells: I was longing for Jesus. I wanted to be with people who loved him, too. I longed to remember him, to commune with him, to sit in his dust in the dark and in the light, and to learn, as Jesus offered in Matthew 11:28-30, how to live freely and lightly in the unforced rhythm of grace.”Sarah Bessey