Last Sunday, I went to the 100th anniversary service at Christ Church Lutheran, because it is on the next block, I can see the tower from the back window, and because Martin Marty was the guest speaker, and I wanted to hear him. I rarely go to churches of any kind, and when I do, they are usually Unitarian. I haven't been to more than a handful of services by Christian denominations in my life. I thought this might be interesting.
The musical program before the service was pleasant, Bach father and son, Mozart, Handel. The inside of the sanctuary is quite beautiful, literally a modern cathedral, with low ceilings at the sides, and a towering vault in the middle. I like the plainness of it as well, all brick, very simple. Designed by a master architect, Eero Saarinen. They were celebrating both the 100th anniversary of the congregation, and the end of the remodeling and restoration work on the building, which is about 60 years old.
There was fortunately a complete printed program of the service, so I had some idea what was going on. There were hymnals in the pews, but no bibles. The hymns were completely unfamiliar, of course. There was a hymn, then a procession in of the choir and the ministers during another hymn, then a prayer. Then they did something I think is a good idea, all the children were brought up to the steps of the platform, and the regular minister gave a very short talk to them, after which some of them were taken out, to the nursery presumably.
Then there was a reading, which was from Ezekiel (34:11-16,20-24), which was about sheep and shepherds. I thought about how Christians use that metaphor and imagery, and how sheep are dumb, and exist to be sheared and eaten. I do not want to identify with sheep. Pagans sometimes identify with goats, partly because of Biblical imagery about sheep and goats, but goats are smelly and unpleasant animals that exist to be sheared and eaten as well. Okay, in both cases, they are sometimes milked. I wouldn't want to identify with a cow either. I am just as glad we called the Pagan student organization Children of the Night, which refers to wolves. Wolves I can identify with. They are pack animals who take care of each other.
They sung Psalm 95, but there was no Bible so I couldn't follow it. I finally found the list of Psalms in the hymnal, and read that one. it refers to "A great ruler above all gods" which is yet another reference to the fact that at the time of the Bible, everyone knew there were many gods, but the Hebrew were trying to say that their god was bigger and better than any other god. Then there were a couple of New Testament readings.
The sermon by Martin Marty was about people coming together to form a congregation because people need to be together to face the world. He talked about what people had needed at various points in the history of the congregation, from written prayer, requests I think.
I do see the need for religion of some sort. There is a need for something that points beyond the everyday, to the infinite, that which is beyond us, what came long before we existed, and will be around long after we are gone. We need to have that which is more than us, which can comfort us and give us meaning. Churches are about community, about congregation, coming together, not being alone to face the world, especially during the difficult times. We need to connect with each other, with the divine with ourselves and within others, and with the divine within the universe. And yes, I am saying there is part of the universe and of me that is not divine. Because if all is divine, nothing is divine.
I don't understand some parts of Christian imagery at all. Why light a candle – what is the darkness, what is the light? Yes, if there is light, one can see one's way better, so I guess this is the point of it, but there are joys in the darkness as well. One cannot see the stars or the Moon if your fire is too large. We have a natural cycle of light and darkness, and we need both. If I want to sleep, I want darkness, if I want to read, I want light. This is part of the Christian X is Good so non-X is Evil, at least in my opinion. I want balance between. I want third and fourth choices.
A feature I liked was that after the sermon, they rung a bell, and asked people to sit quietly and reflect on the sermon. Then there was yet another hymn, with the common bloody imagery, which I find very disturbing.
The service got to the point where they were doing an affirmation of Baptism. Well, I have never been baptized, and never will be, not even in the Gnostic and Catholic Church that's adjunct to the OTO. One thing I promised my parents years ago was that I would never be baptized, and plan to stick to that. The congregation was reciting the Apostles Creed, and right in the middle I felt that my nose was bleeding. I rushed to the bathroom, and managed to get it to stop in about five minutes. (I've been having problems with nosebleeds this fall, so this was not a shock, but it was disconcerting.) I sat for a little while, debating what to do. I never feel really good after a nosebleed, and I knew the service had a while to go yet, since there would be communion, and I wasn't going to take communion. So I went back to the sanctuary, grabbed my coat, and left. And usher asked me if I was okay, and I explained I had had a nosebleed, and needed to go home. They are very nice people, and doing very good work in their own way – the collection would go in part to Meals on Wheels and a homeless shelter for teens, many of whom I'm sure are queer. But I felt very out of place among them.
I posted on Facebook about the nosebleed during the Apostles' Creed, and tried to make a joke of it, since there are stories of Pagans bursting into flames or otherwise having catastrophes happen when they hear certain prayers. I don't really believe the world works that way, but it was an odd coincidence.