HOW TO CHOSE A CHURCH
MYRTLE MACDONALD, B.SC, U of ALBERTA, M.SC.A., MCGILL UNIVERSITY—FILE PHOTO
n most churches Deacons (Elders) are elected by the members to help with leadership and Christian Education, but do not lead Communion (Eucharist, the Lord's Supper). Deacons are ordained and referred to as Reverend in the Anglican Church (Episcopal in USA). They may perform marriages, baptism and funerals, but not the Eucharist.
This is included in every Anglican worship and every Roman Catholic Mass. Other denominations serve the Lord's Supper (Communion) once a month or about four times a year. When I started attending St. Thomas Anglican church in May 2010 I felt very ill at ease about this frequent Eucharist. However gradually I enjoyed more aspects of the rich symbolism and spiritual nurture. Many lovely communion hymns helped this awareness develop. I had known these meanings before in other churches, but less vividly.
I also have friendships with people who regularly attend other churches. I enjoy being on the planning committee of the World Day of Prayer with representatives from many denominations. We enjoy fellowship if we meet anywhere. Most Clergy attend a city-wide prayer breakfast monthly.
Calvinist, Reformed and Presbyterian are semi-democratic. Governance is by the elected elders (Session). Their decisions are considered final. One of them becomes Clerk. If the mainly secretarial role inadvertantly expands, a power struggle can result and one group split away. Fault may be on one side or the other, or both.
In Chilliwack where there are at least 50 churches and most have similar beliefs but worship style differs. The music (guitars, piano, organ), mod or traditional hymns, with meaningful or repetitious words have varied worship customs and communion. In small churches there are few children and youth, so I suggest that two small congregations have joint youth groups with enough Sunday School teachers and midweek group leaders. A junior choir and young musicians should be taught quality music. I hope this rock and roll era will soon pass. It has destroyed church worship.
There are too many churches. The financial support of pastors is a heavy burden. Many cannot manage without income from another job. In the smaller churches children, youth and young parents tend to be neglected. Attendance of 150 to 300 is viable number for the sake of children, youth and their parents. The burden of leadership is time consuming. Parents are expected to do too much of the teaching and leading. Adults need nurture at their own level. Volunteers do most of the leading, but their own personal work and professional responsibilities make it hard for them to be present in church every week, capable to teach and lead. When leaders are sporadic children learn to be sporadic in attendance too. They need midweek and Sunday programs with committed leaders.
The aim is cooperation and unity without uniformity. Practicing faith is superficial or sincere, arms up or down. Temptations to get secular, individualistic and confused are subtle. The Bible is read little or much and pick and choose. Some beliefs or decisions are based on one verse. It is easy to be deceived. Tragedies result. When one sentence from the Bible surprises me I read the whole chapter, cross references from the margin and footnotes so that I will better understand the context and situation. I pray and meditate. If the passage is troubling I discuss it with a mature friend(s).
I use modern translations of the Bible that were translated and checked by many scholars from major denominations and which are respected. I do not use the King James Authorized Version because it was published in 1607. The meanings of Elizabethan English words have evolved/changed. Also since then more ancient Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic manuscripts have been found and used in new translations. The Roman Catholic versions include also traditional ideas not found in manuscripts. Ordinary people did not have a Bible to read until after 1963 when Pope John Paul was elected. I very much like the Roman Catholic New American Bible - St Joseph Edition. It has interesting and valuable footnotes. I used it for years along with the Revised Standard Version and the NIV (New International Version). There are many other translations which tend to be rather colloquial so get dated.
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