Travel Blog: Worshipping with the saints

Lydia Marcus – Staff Writer

Like Sioux Center, Oxford is speckled with numerous churches that all seem to resemble each other. There are 34 colleges in Oxford, and nearly every college has its own chapel with regular services. (Plus, there are numerous churches unaffiliated with a college.) There is no shortage of options.

Most of the churches are Anglican (we are in England, after all), but—also like Sioux Center—there are many variations on this denominational theme. Since arriving in England, I’ve attended very high church-y Anglican services in which the congregation stood while robed clergy paraded the Bible down the center of the church. I’ve attended a solemn Catholic mass, complete with Latin liturgies and incense. I’ve attended moderately evangelical Anglican services, in which the only obvious difference between this church and any of Sioux County’s CRC or RCA churches was the fancy, old building and the priest’s stiff white collar.

 

high-altar-large (The Oxford Oratory)

Contributed Photo

I’ve attended an Open Brethren meeting, housed in an old police station, where there was no order of worship, and the service was directed by three male congregants who periodically stood up to read Scripture, provide a meditation, lead a prayer and announce the next hymn. I’ve also visited medieval parish churches that were decorated with amateur paintings of parables and Norman-era churches with century-old crypts bordering the pews.

 

Though attending a different church every other Sunday is not a habit I’d encourage adopting—being a member of a church community is highly valuable—I have enjoyed learning more about various Christian traditions. We worship the same God, but we go about our worship in very different ways.

The ornate imagery of the Catholic service reminded me that, throughout Scripture, God teaches His people using symbols.

The tomb-filled medieval churches reminded me that the Church has a long history—not only is the Church expansive geographically, it is expansive temporally. When Paul says, “a great cloud of witnesses,” he’s talking about a pretty sizable cloud indeed.

The beautifully adorned Anglican churches reminded me that aesthetics have a role to play in worship.

The meeting reminded me that the essence of Christianity is simple.

Clearly, each tradition has its faults, as well. That’s pretty unavoidable when a church is composed of human beings. But, worshiping with Christians whose traditions are quite different from your own is refreshing. Give it a try sometime. You don’t need to fly to England to experience denominational differences.

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