For better or worse, I grew up in a variety of faith traditions.
My childhood was spent in Southern Baptist and Methodist churches—the Southern Baptist part came from my dad, but I still don’t know how or why I ended up attending a Methodist church to which we had no apparent ties. As a teenager, I faithfully attended every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday service/youth group at a First Baptist church in Arkansas. After a move west, I found myself attending Charismatic services, then after yet another move, a church of the Nazarene. Both came about because of friend- and family ties. As an adult, Collin and I church hopped from place to place, trying to find a home. We ended up attending a Lutheran church for quite a while, then finally settled into the Presbyterian tradition, which is where I now make my denominational home.
One of the many benefits of experiencing a variety of traditions with vastly different ways of being is that I’ve come to disregard many doctrinal differences as irrelevant. You’ll seldom find me caught up in debate over finer points, and though I struggle to reconcile some conflicts in teaching, I mostly follow the creed of “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”
Having begun my faith journey primarily in denominations that eschew ritual, I’ve long viewed liturgy as something that just isn’t for me. But at the start of this year, I began following Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. What is today…. January 9th? Yes, it is. And in these 9 days, I have felt the benefit of this to such an extreme that I want to shout it from the mountaintop.
In addition to the daily prayers and readings, there are other benefits. After the shooting in France, instead of our normal, brief dinner blessing, we prayed the Common Prayer for a killing in the neighborhood (isn’t the whole world our neighborhood?). At night when my daughter has said she “doesn’t know what to pray,” we’ve prayed the evening prayer together and sung songs from the back of the book, which, like me, come from a variety of tradition. So while we may start off with the Doxology and the Magnificat, we also make our way through Nothin’ but the Blood and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.
Of course, much of its benefit likely comes from this being a liturgy for ordinary radicals, of which I hope to be one. Keeping with the teachings of my yellow-dog Democrat dad, and living the life I devoted myself to somewhere around age 17, I am reminded daily of my commitment to the finer things in life: Justice. Mercy. Love. Peace. I never “forget” these things, but often I find myself too busy to do anything but remember them in my mind, never letting their truth reach my heart and hands. But in these last 9 days, I have found myself living more joyfully, more honestly, and with growing rededication to my long-ago chosen path.
Lest you think I am replacing scripture or individual prayer with ritual, let me assure you I am not. In fact, quite the opposite: I have found it much easier to fit both these things into my day, something I’ve been struggling with for years given the too-busy life we often lead. But that, too, is changing.
So why am I writing this non-book review? I don’t know. I’m not so presumptuous as to say others would definitely share a similar experience–I know we’re all different. I suppose it’s like when you eat at a really good restaurant: you want to go out and tell all your friends how great it was, how much you enjoyed it, and that maybe they should check it out on their next date night.
It’s only been 9 days. So either this resurgence will bottom out or it will grow stronger. I am so dearly hoping for the latter.