I have been attending Portico-Arlington a few weeks now. This is a church in the same Acts 29 church planting network as my St. Louis home church, the Journey. I always like to see new churches, noting the differences in people, building, music, style. There is such difference and yet (there should be such) unity.
The pastor was young with some hair haphazardly spiked. I admit I judged him, unsure how this was going to go once I saw him. He seemed goofy, distracted, young. He dug into the text about the Armor of God in their 40th week in Ephesians. Despite his youth pastor exterior he was serious and well-spoken about his church going deeper to practically, daily live in the gospel good news. He brought the word. He knew his stuff. He challenged me. I tried to keep up, scribbling notes for closer study and reflection later. It was familiar and comfortable. Small but able to blend in. I think it would be easy to get plugged in had I more time to invest.
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After attending Portico, the year old hipster church plant, in the morning, I popped into the 237 year old Christ Church in Old Town for evening mass. Yes, this church has been around since 1773 when George Washington worshiped here. I was able to follow along with most of the traditions from memories of Catholic mass with Granny–up-down-kneel, ancient yet familiar words of liturgy, creeds and responses. It would be confusing and alienating had you not prior experience, I will give you that.
I forgot to bow/genuflex before entering my pew. I was caught off guard by the pews being in boxes with a gate to open to enter. All I could think of was touring Paul Revere’s church in Boston and remembering that each family had their own pew in a box. What if I sat in a family’s box?? No, Natalie, certainly they don’t practice that anymore. Sit down. Appear collected.
There was no music playing while we waited for the service to start. There was no music or singing in the service, it turned out. I wondered if the rector would speak from the turret up those curving stairs. It seemed dangerous.
The rector entered without me realizing and everyone stood. She was a she. The entire service was without microphone but she spoke loudly and clearly. A lay leader read the Lesson from the Old Testament and the Gospel from the New. The lay leader also led the Prayers of the People. He lifted up names of those who were sick or had passed on and we were encouraged to add our own, as murmured and whispered names were floated up to the rafters.
For communion we approached the front and knelt at the communion rail. I realized after I had eaten my wafer that I should have waited to dip it in the cup (intinction-style) so had to take a sip of watered down wine after who knows how many other people.
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I enjoyed both services and contemplating their juxtaposition as well. The communities had 275 years age difference. Differences in style, congregants, music, atmosphere, reverence. Coffee provided and some hands emotionally in the air vs. robes donned and Bible solemnly lifted before reading. A majority of the Portico service was spent preaching. The sermon by the rector was one small part of the service (which included Acclamation, Creeds, Collect, Confession, etc). The intense young Acts 29 pastor had a fire of passion desirous for his community to know the depth and love ofJesus. The rector had a different way of communicating–well-spoken and articulate, but calm, formulated, restrained. But not all things may be expected–the young Acts 29’ers would not have a woman pastor.
One communion. One Church. One Jesus.
You may disagree with beliefs or practices of one or both of the denominations. I am sure the average Joe or Portico-ian would be baffled by the reserved traditions, responses, and liturgy of high church. And many people older or brought up in church traditions would be baffled by the low lights, flashing powerpoint, loud music, coffee sipping young professionals sitting in a school cafeteria with Bible classes held in a local art studio.
Let us not be distracted from the Hope professed.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. -Ephesians 4:13