As part of my time spent with my good friend RJ, we discussed our spiritual heritage and journeys for a while. It had been on my mind since walking through the Cathedral Basilica the day before, and is my habit if it is on my mind its probably coming out of my mouth.
My spiritual history is one centered on the Pulpit. In the Charismatic, Pentecostal traditions we are known for wonderful music and sincere efforts at praise and worship. The Charismatic movement is more toward “teaching” from the pulpit while the Pentecostal tradition is more toward “preaching.” Pentecostalism more accurately defines me, so I grew up hearing fiery sermons on hell and holiness that causes one to want to find an altar and repent as quickly as possible. I think I went forward for salvation nearly every week in many of my teen years.
When you look at architecture, Pentecostal/Charismatic churches are designed with the Pulpit front and center. This is neither good nor bad in my opinion, but it has led to some who fill that space to think more highly of themselves than perhaps they ought. And it has caused those of us listening to hold them up higher than they deserve. Television pastors and evangelists have proven this downside more times than I care to recount.
Catholicism and other “high church” traditions are geared much more toward the Altar. The pulpit is set off to one side. Priests give homilies rather than lengthy sermons. The emphasis, both by tradition and by architecture is centered fully on the Altar. It is, after all, at the altar where the priest connects the congregation to the Holy Spirit and the Body of Christ through the act of Holy Communion.
I have been blessed to be in both traditions at various times, and I find them both spiritually fulfilling. But it is in the area of Ritual that I find myself moving away from my Pentecostal/Charismatic past and finding a sense of belonging and community within the larger Body of Christ known simply as The Church.
Some within the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement attempt this. They celebrate Advent, observe Lent, and attempt to move Communion away from plastic cups and animal crackers. But it often still feels like something “stuck on” as an after thought.
There is a “togetherness” that happens in ritual. And when it is gone, there is separation and “apartness.”
Think of it in terms of the family dinner table. I grew up in a time when the family generally sat down together around a single table to have dinner. It was often nearly the same time every evening. Things stopped. Phone calls went unanswered. Discussions took place. And bonds were formed. The experience was about satisfying the family.
Today I find myself eating in my car more times than I care to accept. I stay connected to others through texts, emails, and Facebook posts on my phone. I eat quickly. I eat in silence. The experience is about satisfying me.
And this is where my mind goes when I think about ritual in the church. There is a connectedness found within the act itself that lifts up the Church as a sacrifice to God. Without it, there is a move me if you can attitude that pervades our mindset.
I know this. Yet I don’t live this. At least not right now. But there is a longing in my heart to belong again. To connect again. To be part of something bigger than myself.
It will come.