Thursday, April 12, 2007

An Orthodox Easter

Now, I have nothing against the "Emergent Church" (other than the name of course, because "Emergent" seems to imply a 'better' sort of progression, but whatever). I think, if the doctrine is sound, any creative method of doing church is acceptable. I think one of the reasons that church attendance seems to be waning is the fact that we've stuck with what generations in the past have done, and it isn't relevant any longer (for the most part). I can see a definite need for some sort of alternative.

But I can also see the other side. And by 'other' side, I mean the EXACT OPPOSITE. I was very fortunate this Easter to attend an Eastern Orthodox service. Beth had gone to a service last year in Moscow, and we both were kind of tired of the same-old same-old.

The liturgy began at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night, with readings and prayers until midnight. At exactly midnight the lights and candles went out. Everything was silent. For a few minutes we stood in darkness, symbolizing the death of Jesus Christ. After a few minutes each person there received a candle which was lit and we then went outside the church. The priest locked the doors to the church and we walked around the church three times before congregating at the front doors again. The priest proclaimed, in Greek, Russian and English (although not at the same time, of course): "Christ has risen!" to which the congregation replied (in the respective language): "Indeed, He has risen!"

The priest flung open the doors, still chanting the line and us congregation replying. This first thirty minutes was incredible. It was beautiful. It was amazing. EVERYTHING that we did had purpose and meaning. There was some sort of significance to EVERYTHING that happened.

To me, both the Emerging Church, in which we abandon the rules, regulation and tradition, and Eastern Orthodoxy, in which every single thing that is done is something that's been done since the beginning, everything has purpose and meaning and significance, have some sort of validity. The only problem I have is when either side criticizes the opposing viewpoint. Both sides are valid. The Emergent Church is completely necessary when it comes to reaching unbelievers. It works to show that worshipping God is not simply what's been done in the past. It shows that when it comes to worshipping God, it's how we live our lives, how we love others, and not simply what we do.

But the Orthodox Church is also just as valid. Instead of a rejection of tradition, it is an embracing of it. What is more powerful than knowing that over a thousand years ago believers were doing the exact same thing that they are doing now? How awesome is it to know that everything that takes place in the service, the reading, the chants, the prayers, the motions, everything has some sort of purpose?

All I can say is next Easter, I hope to be at St. Timothy's again.