October 11, 2018
In my travels this Summer I had the opportunity to interact, albeit briefly, with Anglican churches in the Bahamas, Panama and London. What these experiences illustrated is that while sharing similar religious tradition and worship styles, cultural nuances are very important and offer an opportunity to learn, incorporate best practices and grow in our ministry.
As Episcopalians and Americans, oftentimes in our local and international travels we have a mindset of being more evolved and therefore enter into these interactions without a spirit of inquiry and discovery.
In the Bahamas, I experienced renewed hope with the many youth and young adults who are in the church with active ministries of music, liturgical dancing and service on the altar. These young people have the same distractions as their US counterparts but the church provides the social networking they desire so it is attractive to them. The parish and diocesan leadership have also dedicated much time and resources to the youth and young adults ministries.
In Panama, I experienced multi-cultural worship in a small local congregation with limited resources that worked very well. The blending of Spanish and English in all aspects of the service was seamless, did not require a large bulletin and was supplemented by a prayer book and hymnal in both languages. The laity as well as clergy were very attuned to language differences and made every effort to make everyone feel welcome.
In London I experienced the repurposing of a former church building while maintaining the beauty and structure of the worship space. The building includes a vegetable garden, café, gift shop and tours that highlights the church’s history.
Comparable conclusions may be drawn when interacting with ecumenical churches, especially those who have official partnerships with the Episcopal Church, there is potentially much to be experienced and applied to our congregations.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in our travels we just took it all in and enjoyed these new experiences for our personal and collective benefit?