If there is only one thing that most of us can’t tolerate, it is a big change in our style of worship. Think about it, a pastor can change, the style of the building can change, the leadership/elder board can change, but don’t you dare touch that style of doing church! One example of that is seen when a traditional church decides to begin catering to the modern crowd. Many angry old folks end up leaving with their hymn books in hand.
That Strange, Foreign Thing Called “Liturgy”
Liturgy is an uncommon word in modern churches. Its literal meaning is “the work of the people.” What it usually means today is the form and order in which a church does stuff. So, for example, a liturgy I became accustomed to was the following:
- Intro worship song
- A brief welcome/prayer
- Two more songs
- One more song while the offering is taken
- Pastor’s sermon
- Altar call
The Time Warp
My wife boldly joined me in this new spiritual venture. We found that stepping into an Eastern Orthodox Church for the first time was like being zapped 1,000 years back in time.
My first thought was, “I’m not sure I’m ever going back to this.”
But I did.
No Showmanship Here
One of the things that helped me to appreciate the liturgy was to stop waiting for the service to begin. I found myself unconsciously waiting for the “performance” to start. I’m so used to a few songs being the beginning of what is really the main purpose of being there — hearing the fun or engaging pastor’s sermon; that is what western churches revolve around.
I had to come to the realization that the entire liturgy – the songs, the prayers, and even the icons – are a part of the message there. In fact, they are the primary sermon. They contain the entire gospel message and most of the main points of theology.
A Bit of Help
If you’re thinking about visiting an Eastern Orthodox Church for the first time, here are a few things I wish I’d known. Also, there are a couple of books by Bishop Kallistos Ware called The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way that I found extremely informative. Also, Ancient Faith Radio, which is devoted to podcasts, has helped me tremendously. Check out my Resources tab above for more info.