Sunday, November 11, 2007

Notes on an Indian Church Service

As I mentioned before, yesterday we went to Sunday worship at St. Mark's Cathedral in Bangalore. It's part of the Church of South India, a united church that includes Methodists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, etc.

The worship was a very centering experience. In terms of liturgical formality, it was high-church Methodist or low-church Anglican. Actually very close to what we do in Coos Bay on a communion Sunday. We had been traveling for days, and our first few hours in Bangalore had been rather anxiety ridden and stressful. We came to worship, and were welcomed. The service was in English, so that was very familiar. The basic order or service was fairly familiar as well. A call to worship followed by a processional hymn. The choir and pastors processed in behind the crucifer. Then there were some prayers, confessions, etc. Then the reading of scriptures: a Hebrew Bible lesson, an Epistle lesson, and a Gospel lesson. We stood for the gospel.

Then there was the sermon. It was really quite good. I was impressed by how pointedly political it was. He wasn't afraid to point out the precise real-world situations where we are or are not following the gospel call. He was preaching on the sheep and the goats in the little apocalyps in Matthew. He said, there is one group, the sheep, who are doing the acts of justice and charity in the world, without any expectation of reward. There is another group, the goats, who are waiting God to come in person before they will fulfill the Gospel call for justice. And there is a third group, that we usually forget, and it is the group with which Jesus himself identifies. That group is the poor, the imprisoned, the oppressed, the marginalized. Then, he encouraged us to reach out across lines of difference, whether they be political, racial, ethnic, language group, caste, national, economic, etc. He mentioned the situation in Pakistan, the situation in Bengal. I can't do it justice here, but it was very good.

Then there were more announements and prayers. There was even a push for their new funds campaign. The church is celebrating 200 years in their building, and as part of the celebration, they are raising funds to build a church building for another congregation in another town. They want to raise enough money to cover the complete costs, so that building can be a complete gift the other congregation. They are also working to expand their outreach ministries. The slogan was that a church that has been here for 200 years should be able to have 200 people participating in direct outreach ministry. In addition, they are trying to work on their youth program.

Next, we moved into communion. It was so wonderful to receive the Eucharist with everyone, such a unifying and grace-filled expereince. We came up to the high altar to kneel at the rail and receive. It was a wafer and wine. Actually, the wine tasted like some kind of hard apple cider.

Anyway, it was a wonderful time for us. We really felt connected to God in the service.


Anonymous Leena said...

You write very well.

3:54 PM  

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