Comparing worship services

Recently, thanks to the invitation of a good friend, I had the opportunity to attend a Catholic Church service for the first time in my life. I’ve been to weddings before that were held in a Catholic Church building, but that’s not the same. It both was and wasn’t what I expected. Lemme ‘splain…

First, it was very ritualistic. All jokes aside about how ritualistic Catholics are, the service was very much so. But I don’t mean that in a negative way; it’s just they do things just so. In fact, when I think about the Southern Baptist services I attend and have attended over the years, they’re almost ritualistic, too. We’re more informal about it, but we do the SAME thing week in and week out. If that isn’t “ritual,” I don’t know what is.

I expected to see the congregation at the Catholic Church a bit more dressed up than my church…but I guess down this way everyone attends church in “Florida casual.” Even at my church, it still feels awkward to me as I was raised to put on my “Sunday best” for church. The Catholic priests dressed far better than my own Baptist preacher, who often wears blue jeans with his shirt untucked.

The message by the priest was shorter than any Baptist preacher I’ve ever heard. It was short, but just as hard hitting and he pulled no punches (he talked about abortion!). While I much prefer our preaching; the Catholic message was poignant, just short. Our preacher comes across more as a teacher/lecturer. I quite like our pastor because he also doesn’t shy away from the tough subjects.

The biggest difference—and it was a stark difference, one I wouldn’t have even thought about had I not attended the service—is the reverential atmosphere at the Catholic Church. It felt like worship. Heck, in my church, the music often come across as a performance; our “worship band” actually uses dry ice to fog up the stage and 1980s style light rigs. I often feel like I’m at a rock concert (and I went to plenty of those in my younger days) and want to hold a lighter up over my head. They tell us to sing along with them and then blind me with lights in my eyes. Half of the time I have to sing “watermelon, watermelon” because I don’t know the words and then I can’t even see the screen to read them! (Okay, “half” may be an exaggeration, but you get what I’m saying) And when I can see the lead singer—I mean, the worship leader—he’s dressed for a concert, even wearing a hat in the sanctuary. I don’t know about you, but my mama taught me that you were to never wear a hat inside a building, and you sure as shooting don’t wear one in the house of God. Our lead singer should have been informed by the pastor (or at least one of the crew of them) that he can wear his stage vests, but he needs to take off the hat while performing in the sanctuary. More times that not, this video springs to mind when our worship band plays.

(in a note of fairness, and because probably one or two of my church pals may read this, the worship leader mentioned above is no longer at our church and the new one does not wear a hat)

All in all, my experience in the Catholic worship was a very positive and I’m thankful that my good pal, Doug Texter, invited me and my family to attend with him. I should have said “no,” though…because after I visited with him, he up and moved to a different state! 🙂

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Comparing worship services

  1. I enjoyed that, Roland. (Man that video is hysterical!) Thanks for sharing.

    Bruce Costa, recovered Catholic

    • I wish I could take credit for the video…but I’ll just take credit for FINDING it. 🙂
      What exactly does “recovered Catholic” mean? I can make more than one guess, but figured I’d ask.

      • No problem. I tread lightly here, on a topic that holds such meaning for you and your family, and speak only of experiences meaningful to me.

        It’s not what you may think. Despite the disgraceful conduct endemic to the Catholic Church at the time, I had no horrible experiences beyond a grumpy nun or two in my kindergarten Catholic school. When I was 14 years old, however, I told my mother that I had questions and wondered if I could meet with our priest. She was thrilled. He was everyone’s favorite — kind, well spoken, handsome. I entered the rectory porch and sat on the lawn chair he had set up for me. I asked the questions that any reasonably thoughtful adolescent might have. You know…Adam and Eve had Caine and Abel…who went off and found women to marry? Did Noah house all those pairs of rodents? Does a kid in central Africa who never hears of Jesus go to hell? Et cetera, ad infinitum. I remember him being pleasant and kind and warm. I also remember entering the porch a Catholic and leaving it agnostic.

        Throughout my early adulthood, and during the time I knew you, I explored various faith traditions. However there were always endless questions that were more readily answered by reason and an understanding of the real world than explanations offered by the texts that codified the fundamentals of these faiths. I discovered how remarkable it was that religion could be traced geographically and as a history of war far more than anything deposited by a supernatural being. I didn’t like the way women were treated in the Bible, the Qur’an, and in much Buddhist literature. I was horrified to discover the way Galileo was treated by the Holy Roman Catholic Church, and that it took 450 years (1983!) for the Holy See to see fit toward an apologize for its treatment of those moving the ball forward in human development. Concerning the practice of my sainted, daily-church-visiting grandmother who raised me, it irked me that she didn’t asked any questions of it, was discouraged from doing so, and was given a prayer book approved by the Holy Roman Catholic Church of psalms and proclamations written over a millennia after the death of Jesus. The first time I read through the Bible, I could see why; if I operated a popularly funded bureaucracy whose ostensible purpose was to worship of someone who had communicated those things, I wouldn’t have wanted them reading it either. It is common, even among many Christians today, to claim their faith as an indispensable source of moral teaching despite the many atrocious acts commanded by God and respected by Jesus.

        I live in a town with 21 churches within a two-mile radius of the borough center. In my decades of exploring this topic, I find that most Christians have read very little of the Bible. My neighbors have no idea what horrors are to be found in Leviticus, 2nd Timothy, and Numbers, none of which I’ve ever heard selected for review by Bible study groups. (I still attend often, at the request of friends or loved ones.) They’d be appalled by the simple observation that ISIS follows its holy book with far more dedication than they do theirs. They grapple not at all with Jesus’s requirement that we change “not a dot or tittle of My Father’s law,” nor with His clear accommodations toward the enslavement and emiseration of our fellow men.

        Most of us spend our lives attending a house of worship and seeing how the service feels, or if they like what the pastor/priest/imam/rabbi is sharing that day, and not at all pondering the big picture questions those theologies purport to address. I feel that the true definition of humility — another concept claimed by religion — requires that I think the universe owes me nothing, and that I’m profoundly lucky to simply be a part of this beautiful cosmos. I think being worthy of that means seeing the world as it truly is, and caring about the truth very, very much. I remember looking at the Ten Commandments in my late 30s as a Dungeon Master would, as if I were creating an idyllic society and setting up the best possible rules I could for their happiness. Would I make the first four all about me? Would I include nothing about how to treat children, or variations in culture and gender? Would I have spent so much of the one book I shared discussing the minutia of livestock handling (including their sacrifice to me) and not mention germ theory and the importance of washing one’s hands, thereby halving the lifespans of those I supposedly love?

        After tunneling up through my respect for my Nona and for my mother and through the overwhelm of Catholic culture, it took me until age 40 to be comfortable with the realization that a member of modern society would get himself into pretty heavy trouble using the Bible as his guide to social behavior. There was so much art and music and beauty and humor and family history to dig through before my small mind could grow into that.

        There’s much, much more to discuss on this topic, but I’ve already provided you a far longer answer than you thought you’d requested.

      • Hey Bruce,
        Sir–never fear regarding the length. Faith in a topic many get worked up over…and often because there is lack of respect from one or both parties. I don’t see that happening here. 🙂
        Also, please don’t think I was trying to pry with my question. Was not my intention. In my lifetime I’ve not known that many Catholics, and those I did I got along with very well and we generally had really good conversations comparing our faiths. I have one friend who says the Catholic church will welcome all us protestants back “in” after the reformation is finished! haha
        It was the “recovered” part that I was really curious about and unsure what you meant.
        I 100% agree with you about many of faith having no idea what’s in the Bible. When I had my own conversion experience in 2000, I decided to read it through from front to back because I never had before. I also wanted to approach it from the idea that it IS a “whole” work…and lastly because when I lived in California so many out there called people of faith “dumb.” I determined that if I was going to embrace my newfound faith, I didn’t want to be “dumb.”
        Reading it through was a real eye-opener. My own findings see that I line up mostly with the Southern Baptists, but there are things I saw in my readings that I generally don’t talk about with them because they don’t like to hear it. And truthfully, I don’t find it to be one of the “lynchpins” of faith (things like virgin birth, trinity, resurrection, etc). Having an complete picture of the Bible, though, helped me to gain a fuller understanding of it. Oh, I still don’t understand it all and don’t think I ever will. There are just those elements that I have to take on faith alone. 🙂
        I think you and I could have HOURS of conversation about this and neither of us would punch the other! 🙂
        Thanks for contributing, friend. It is greatly appreciated.

  2. That kind of contemporary “worship” seems more about the band/lead singer than the Lord. I have no problem with modern contemporary music that lifts up Jesus Christ, but this video doesn’t seem to have any relation to church. (I must admit, I didn’t listen to entire thing.) I agree with you that each denomination follows their “ritual.” Good post.

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