My family doesn’t eat fish but I secretly like it. I don’t know if my children got a bad batch of freezer burnt fish sticks when they were young, but for some reason, they don’t like fish. Of course, it could be because our amazing in-house chef Madame Melanie is also not a fish aficionado (pun intended).Melanie and I just returned from a cruise which allowed me to stretch my pallet further than the norm. Melanie looked at me with surprise the first night on the boat when I ordered Talapia. Throughout the week, I followed that choice up with escargot, seafood pasta, and lobster. Now that I am home I have returned to the wonderful and varied diet that is suited to our family’s taste, but I admit that I enjoyed diverging for a week.
Similarly, on Sunday, Melanie and I attended a church that was vastly different from our worship style in the Bahamas. We attended the Anglican Cathedral in Nassau. I have a deeply embedded taste for modern praise and worship and informal relaxed church. This is the style of worship that I cut my teeth on in “low” churches. Low churches are churches that are not liturgical. We don’t do much responsive readings and we don’t do many rituals. Baptists, Pentecostals, Nazarenes, Non-denominational are typically considered “low” church.
High churches are liturgical. The sermon of the day is generally taken from what is called the “lectionary” reading for the day. Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, and Anglicans are considered high church. Low church people think lent is what collects in our dryers while high church people understand that Lent is the forty days of preparation before Easter. I confess that I like much of the order and ritual that “high” churches provide. I don’t think I would like it every week, because its not the default approach to worship I was spiritually formed within.
The experience of high church worship is rich and rewarding on occasion even for “low” church people. In the Roman Catholic city of Ottawa Illinois, where I was raised, I often attended Christmas Eve midnight mass. I continue that practice to this day. I suspect that the opposite is also true. High church people could receive much enrichment by leaving the formal faire of lobster liturgy and coming over to one of our churches for some low church lasagna. I loved my Sunday worship experience at the Cathedral in the Bahamas. I was a bit lost in the three books we were shuffling back and forth through, but the sermon was inspiring, the music was breathtaking, and the communion was spiritually satisfying. I left the Lord’s table richly fed.
I mention this now because we are moving into what the “High” church considers to be the holiest time of the year-Lent. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday when the faithful will take ashes on their forehead and be reminded that we came from ashes and to ashes we shall return. For the next forty days, the faithful will give up something they enjoy as a sacrifice of gratitude for what the Lord has done for them. In addition they may add a spiritual discipline such as fasting on a particular day of the week. In the case of Catholics, they may not eat meat on Friday but opt for fish. (Sounds like something I would like). This is not a way to earn merit with God, but rather its spiritual training to prepare us for the game of life. If you want to read more, I found this article to be especially helpful: www.thegospelside.com/2014/03/03/lent-spring-training-for-christians.
So to all of my “low” church friends. Let’s join our high church brothers and sisters this season and prepare ourselves for the game of life. I will be adding to my prayer life this season and you may find me at Long John Silver on Friday