I found myself this morning at a church where, just a mere 4 months ago, I never would have imagined myself worshipping. Having been raised Roman Catholic, my only experience with the Lutheran church came from my uncle, who was Lutheran pastor and a very conservative one to boot. Upon my return to the faith, I gravitated to the Episcopal church without much of a second thought. However, thanks to the brilliant work of Meredith Gould and the Church Social Media (#chsocm or @chsocm on Twitter) chats, I have met many people across denominations including Pastor Keith Anderson who have opened my eyes. After pouring over the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s website, I ordered a copy of the Evangelical Lutheran Worship prayer book & hymnal. Having read over it, the liturgies, the hymns, etc, I was determined to visit Pastor Keith and his flock this morning.
I arrived early this morning at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, so early in fact that I was one of the first in the parking lot. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I cannot stand being late for church, so much so that I have attended later services or services at a different church if I am late. After killing some time I went into the church about 20 minutes ahead of the service start time, and was warmly greeted by the ladies in the entry area. I had arrived ahead of the usher, but one of the ladies grabbed a bulletin for me (her niece was one of the scheduled ushers). I entered the church proper and was excited to see Pastor Keith at the pulpit (ok, not sure if it is deemed a pulpit, but you know what I mean). I had given him the heads up that he would know me first by my beard, and when he looked up, I knew he had made the connection! We chatted for about 10 minutes, which was wonderful! He walked me through the order of the service and we talked about my journey in general and our Church Social Media connections. I can’t wait to have coffee/lunch with him in the future! Before the service started, Deacon Diane approached me to ask if I would read/lead two of the prayers of intercession! She knew I was visiting and was present from my Facebook post and check-in! Talk about a testimony to the brilliance of church social media!
The service was very familiar and very different all at the same time, and a wonderful and holy experience. Pastor Keith and Deacon Diane entered the church without any fanfare or procession. Pastor Keith welcomed us and instructed us briefly concerning the order of service. We began then with the Confession and Forgiveness, devoutly kneeling. I really appreciated the instruction to kneel during the confession. After, I stood for the Gathering Song (Love Divine, All Loves Excelling!) and a fellow pew mate kindly let me know I should sit during the prelude and then stand. He really was kindly about it, and I really appreciated that help!
The Greeting followed, and then we sang the hymn Now the Feast and Celebration. We proceeded to the Prayer of the Day, which in the Episcopal tradition would be the Collect, and then to the readings. The Gospel acclamation followed, and then the Gospel. After the Gospel reading, something very awesome happened. Pastor Keith invited the kids to come up, and talked to them in their terms. It really was a delight to witness how he engaged them and associated our faith in terms and ideas that they could understand.
At this point in this post, I am probably running a bit long, so I will sum up the rest. Pastor Keith’s sermon was awesome. I now understand the Communion liturgy better after seeing it prayed in person. Finally, I look forward to returning at some point soon to this church and thank God for this landmark in my journey.