I have never really felt out of place in a sanctuary of worship, regardless of the denomination or language. I have fond memories worshiping God in many different places. I traveled in the subway early one Sunday morning to worship in the Cathedral de Notre Dame in Paris where I didn’t understand much of the French liturgy, except for maybe recognizing a word or the form of a prayer. There was a time when I worshiped in a small Methodist Church in Chichicastenango, Guatemala in three languages, Spanish, English, and a Mayan language; yet we felt the Spirit’s presence. It was a beautiful Sunday morning in Manila, the Philippines, when we arrived at a local United Methodist Church. It was a small church, but the people were so friendly and kind. We worshiped that day in the native language of Tagalog and English.
It’s been a blessing to praise God in so many different places around the world, from Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox, Baptist, Presbyterian, and many more denominational churches to large and famous places of worship like the Vatican, Saint Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in London, Notre Dame in Paris, and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. While some denominations have different customs or traditions, I still feel at home when I see the cross of Christ in that space.
It was true this morning as well. Today was my first Sunday worshiping God with my new congregation Meridian Street United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. Yesterday afternoon, I decided to spend a few hours in the sanctuary practicing my sermon, praying, and preparing for worship. I wanted that space to feel like home before I preached to the congregation. I can usually simply walk into a space, see the cross, and the people, and feel at home and worship, but to preach and lead worship adds more of a need to become comfortable in a space.
I suppose my first worship service was really last night. I practiced the sermon a few times. I read out of the Gospels. Then I said Vespers (Evening Prayer) before leaving that space. I asked God for peace for the next day and God answered that prayer. Before I left, I looked up to the cross one more time and realized that I was home.
This morning may have been my first time worshiping with the people of Meridian Street United Methodist Church, but it felt comfortable. It felt like home. Many people following worship told me that I appeared to be comfortable leading worship in that place for the first time. I really was. Leading Holy Communion was a great blessing. Preaching my first sermon was a great joy. Singing the Doxology and Gloria Patri with the organ was full of reverence. Meeting the people who were kind and welcoming was wonderful. It already feels like home.
I know it’s only been one Sunday, but whenever I look up and see the cross, I’ll remember I’m home with my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.