While holidays such as Christmas and Easter are wonderful times to celebrate crucial moments of our Christian faith, these holidays can present HUGE challenges for non-creedal, Progressive pastors.
Some might think I say this because of the additional services and workload associated with the holidays. While the workload certainly IS intense during these holidays, that’s not why I find the holidays so challenging.
The holidays are challenging because some in our non-creedal Progressive churches have a LOT of pain in their lives due to the way the sacred stories were presented earlier in their life. As a result, they are triggered any time they hear traditional words or theological concepts used that they associate with their earlier pain.
That means in order for them to feel safe entering into the experience, they want the worshipping community to drop certain words and largely re-do certain theological concepts.
Such an approach might work in creedal Christian worshipping communities – where there is one accepted theological standard in place for everyone. Such an approach doesn’t work in healthy, vibrant non-creedal Christian communities, however, for such communities are defined by their openness to a variety of theological perspectives.
So how is it possible to worship together when those gathered have such radically different understandings of events like Easter?
The reality is that in order for the non-creedal Christian worship experience to work, each individual has to do his or her work – and make peace with some pieces of their background. They might have an aversion to a specific word or concept – so when they hear that word or concept referenced in a hymn or piece of Scripture, they can translate it in their head in a way that best communicates God’s love and grace to them. Likewise, they can appreciate those aspects of the service which speak to them, and not to traditionalists. I was talking recently to a traditionalist in our church recently who said she struggles a little at the start of each service when we explicitly invite individuals to change the language of the printed service elements as they need in order to have the best possible worship experience. “I was brought up to believe that there was only one set of acceptable words,” she said, “so it’s tough for me to understand why some need to change words. That statement pushes me every time I hear it.”
Her statement reminded me that so often, we non-creedal Christian pastors are what I call “equal opportunity offenders” – for in the process of creating safe space for all of God’s children, there are moments when each individual encounters things they would not choose for themselves. Because of that, however, we non-creedal pastors pay a heavy price. For many are quick to complain about pieces of the community that offend them. I am glad to pay that price on most days, however, because the non-creedal way of being represents the fullness of God’s grace as I understand it.
As we observe Good Friday and Holy Saturday – and head toward Easter Sunday – my hope is that those who choose to gather in non-creedal Christian communities can understand what a gift we have been given to gather together as the body of Christ and celebrate Easter in ways that have deep meaning for each of us. We gather knowing that some parts of the communal worship experience will speak to us more than others. In the process of making room for those (and those perspectives) that are different from ours, we have been blessed with the opportunity to embrace a deeper experience and understanding of God’s grace and radical hospitality that makes room for ALL of us.
May your Holy Weekend be full of meaning, kindness, and grace – both received and extended to others.