Sunday, June 11, 2006
I was thinking about that dentist chair, and the comments made. Here is what Proclaiming Softly said:
How often does any of us go to a meeting or club unless we are personally invited, unless we have a prior association with that group? Many of us would be uncomfortable walking into a "new" space without a friend. There are a couple of places close to my home that I've never gone to even though they are popular with my acquaintances, yet I've never had a friend say, "hey, lets go to ____." So if we did go and we thought the place had strange, unfamiliar music, how would we feel? What about seeing a guy leading the group wearing a "dress" and chanting? Does that seem somehow uncomfortable because we might not have it in our background?
P.Softly is a Lutheran, and I'm a Pentecostal, so you might say we are from "different sides of the church aisle" so to speak. :-) What is familiar to a Lutheran is not familiar to my folks and vice versa. But the principle is exactly the same. For example...
Last week I attended the funeral of a Roman Catholic, the father of one of our church members. Since I only knew the deceased man slightly, I was free to watch and think during the funeral. The sanctuary is rather small and quite lovely and I have been to a few Catholic services before. Nonetheless there were a couple of objects that were unfamiliar to me. I wondered what their purpose might be. The priest in that particular parish is quite elderly, and the service was very formal. Which meant I was a bit lost. A large part of the congregation knew the proper responses but I (for the most part) did not. My familiarity with Catholic liturgy pretty much ends with knowing that when the priest says "Peace be with you" the appropriate response is "And also with you." (Okay, slight exaggeration, but not much.)
I found myself wishing I could ask questions. I like to learn. I would have been happy to join in the service to a greater degree if I understood it, or knew what to say when. As it was I know I stood out as an uninformed Protestant. And yes, I felt just a bit powerless and a bit relieved when the service was completed. And I'm a pastor, not someone who is trying to find my way to God.
On the other hand, I know very well how unfamiliar our "free church" Pentecostal style must sound, look and feel to our Catholic and Lutheran neighbors who come for the first time. And we are a pretty quiet congregation as Pentecostals and charismatic congregations go. After all, this is Wisconsin, not Georgia or Mississippi, and the culture is quite different.
I think P.Softly has the only solution I can think of. Some people are uncomfortable because they do not want to submit their lives to God, or they simply have been hurt and are struggling with faith. That are perhaps different issues--other than that, the only way to get past the discomfort (other than the work of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God) is to befriend people, talk to people beforehand about what to expect, explain what may be different, and so on.
There must be good ways to do that whether we are Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist or Assemblies of God.
We could all start by inviting our friends to church. And then having some good conversation.