I went to a small Baptist college in a small town in central Texas.
Down the street from my college was a Presbyterian church. I had recently been reading a lot of Frederick Buechner and Thomas Merton and was fascinated by their spiritual journeys. Both of them came to conversion in their early to mid-twenties and something about their story resonated with me. I desired a deeper spiritual journey and like Buechner and Merton, thought I needed a change of scenery, a new religious path, something different to align myself with.
My evangelical, Baptist exposure from the early 1990s wasn’t doing it for me. I began to visit this Presbyterian church on a regular basis. The minister of the church was named Norbert and he preached with an intelligent but not cold style that reminded me of Buechner. I appreciated his understated spirituality that seemed to shape who he was not just what he did in his position. He was a minister, not just a CEO in a robe.
But what truly reached me from these services was the recitation of scripture, prayers and the Apostle’s Creed. Joining the whole congregation in words of confession, statements of belief, and prayers that have been recited for hundreds of years connected me to something that was bigger than myself. I liked the feeling of standing my ground and announcing my faith and joining others in a prayer that didn’t have to go through a human filter but was the very words of Christ that he told us to pray.
There was a real plan to this church service that didn’t require a grandiose vision or human charisma. Human charisma is usually not sustained from week to week.
Was it stale and stuffy? Yeah, but I felt a part of the service, a part of the worship. I wasn’t just a consumer. I was joining the saints around the world who were saying the same prayers and making the same stand. That felt right to me and shook me out of my college-aged tendency to make everything about how I felt about it.
What did this affection for a more liturgical approach mean for me? Where would this take my spiritual journey?