Sunday, February 15, 2009

Doing Things Differently

Last night I went to Mass and this morning I went to my own Presby church. Our pastors are both leading a group traveling in Israel, and today's guest preacher was none other than my very own CPE supervisor from Giant Famous Hospital.

After the service I asked her about one of the quotations she had mentioned, likely to appear in my other blog soon, about God holding our tears in a flask. "I think it's in Psalm 56," she said. "Let's check." And we pulled a Bible out of the first pew rack, and then a pencil so that I could make a quick note, and I chuckled and told her about going to Mass.

I've probably written this before, but the difference seems striking to me. In the Catholic churches and chapels I've frequented: no Bibles, no notepads, no pens in the pew racks. The readers identify Scripture passages by book ("A reading from Galatians"), but not by chapter and verse. You don't have a citation, and you can't look it up anyway unless you have your own Bible, and you can't make a note for later reference unless you have your own paper and pen.

I smiled at the assumption inherent in our conversation. A Baptist and a Presbyterian, we expect a Bible to be within reach anywhere in the sanctuary.

Don't get me wrong. I love both worship services, and I am able to accomodate what sometimes seems lacking in one or the other. But the Reformation emphasis on Scriptural accessibility and literacy really does jump out at me in the context of the most ordinary encounters.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's so true. When I think back to when I was a kid in Catholic church, I can only remember there being a hymnal in the pew rack thingy. There's definitely more of a sense of flying by the seat of your pants. Either it was good training for learning to accept the unknowable or it was good for training gullible suckers. The jury's still out in my case. :)

lisaram said...

I was brought up Catholic, and then became "born again," (a member of a Pentecostal denomination) when I was in my twenties. So I know exactly what you are talking about.

In the end, of course, I have chosen to adhere to neither tradition. While you embrace both. The difference between us, my friend...

Anonymous said...

oops, I forgot to sign my name. I'm Anonymous up there, GG.

Mich

Kathryn J said...

LOL As a cradle Catholic, I sooooo resemble that remark. Most churches have a missal in the pew which has the reading and the complete citation.

We have made some progress but I am way behind my Protestant and Evangelical friends. I've taken several courses on the Bible but it just isn't part of our tradition to read it regularly.

My favorite Catholic tradition is centering prayer. Wow - now that's powerful!

Kris said...

Dad goes to daily Mass and he has a subscription to a mag. that list chapter and verse for each reading. He has been using that for about a year, and he really likes being able to go into the Bible to read more when he wants. (and know were to look!!)

Presbyterian Gal said...

I've been to both kinds of services and hadn't noticed that before. I see it now, thank you. I much prefer having a Bible handy. I like to read along with my eyes because I am not an auditory learner at all.

And God has our tears in a flask? If I ask, do you think he'd let me have them back. I could use a cry.

hypatia said...

As a presbyterian who attends catholic services regularly - The interesting thing about the missal (for me) is the ellipses...

A reading from the book of Galations might be Gal 1:10-12, 2:24-27, 3:1-4. (That's exaggerating a bit!). I always find myself wondering what's been left out and why! It's tantalizing and sometimes changes how I would interpret the story.

Jan said...

Your observations are very interesting. Not many Bibles in our Episcopal Church however. . . .

Betsy said...

There have been Bibles in the pews in two of the Episcopal congregations I've served, but they are probably the exception. In part that's because we need room for all the hymnals; in my current church, we have 3 different ones along with our Book of Common Prayer! And we have pencils, but they are just for filling out the visitor and prayer request cards...

However, again because of my tradition, when you mentioned looking up a psalm verse, my first thought was, "Oh, they grabbed a prayer book!" as the whole psalter is in the BCP. Episcopalians know more scripture than they think they do!

I think you are right on the mark, though, about the little details reflecting our much bigger perspectives.

Gannet Girl said...

PG, my experience is that Giod does not keep them.

And Lisa, my dear, the REAL difference between us is that you have all those cats and I want them.

lisaram said...

Not so very many cats, anymore. We are down to five--the least we have had since, oh...1986?

Breaks my heart that I am not in a place where I can take in another "baby..." ;)

Reformed Catholic said...

Being brought up Catholic I can relate to the lack of scripture in the pews. That was always an issue with me, I bought my own missal when I was 12 because I wanted to read for myself what the priest was reading aloud.

I think part of the impetus was that the priest had a very heavy accent, and I couldn't understand him all that well.

Well, now that I'm 'Reformed', I get to read the Scripture aloud as liturgist, and I get kidded about my recitation. I'm either too fast, or I mumble, or I mispronounce a word. This past Sunday I was so worried about the pronunciation of Laodicea I practiced it many times beforehand. In the reality, I pronounced it fine, but couldn't get Ephesus correct (sigh) !!