I attended church one Sunday last summer in a loft space above a store. The music was provided by the owners of a local sushi restaurant who sang hymns and love songs in Japanese, while playing electronic instruments. They obviously loved making music even though it wasn’t always easy for them to stay on pitch or keep the beat. The walls of our worship space were hung with unique art pieces, some quite graphic and unusual. The congregation was a mix of local residents from all kinds of backgrounds. There were men in dark business suits and women in muddy raincoats. People who were obviously intoxicated shouted out colorful comments during the service. Psalm 23 was the subject of the short meditation and the text was read in German, French, English, Hebrew and Japanese.
The pastor blessed some crusts of bread and a cup of red juice and we could approach the small altar at our leisure to partake of the elements. Music from a nearby jazz festival was blaring through the windows as we took communion.
A few months earlier I had attended a massive stone church right across from the Manitoba Legislature. It had been built in 1886. Professional musicians paid by the church directed and sang in the choir. A gifted university music professor played a pipe organ installed in 1917. The lovely stained glass windows surrounding the sanctuary depicted stories from the Bible. The order of service followed a certain liturgy and people knelt, sang and responded orally with little direction from the worship leader. Banners and plaques in the church illustrated its strong connection with military units and soldiers from the two world wars. People wearing fashionable clothes filed up silently and reverently to receive communion from the pastor. During the ‘passing of the peace’ many parishioners shook my hand and welcomed me and when I expressed an interest in the building’s history after the service one friendly church member gave me a tour.
We spent our first year in Winnipeg church shopping and it’s been an interesting experience. We’ve been to tiny churches and huge churches, churches that are new and some that have been around for a hundred years. We’ve been to Mennonite churches, Anglican churches, United churches, Alliance churches, Lutheran churches and non-denominational churches. We’ve been to churches where most of the people seem to be over eighty years old and others with lots of young families.
In some churches people warmly welcomed us, while in others not a single person talked to us. At one church we received several invitations to join families for lunch, while at another the pastor came running after us down the street as we headed to our car because he hadn’t had a chance to talk to us.
We quickly found a Lutheran congregation in Hong Kong that became our home church for our six years in Asia. Now we are living in Winnipeg and we need to find a new church to attend so we have been church shopping. We’ve heard every kind of music, listened to many thought provoking sermons and met lots of interesting people. In fact church shopping has been so fascinating we’ve been procrastinating on making a decision about where we want to become members. I know we need to decide soon, but for right now we are enjoying the absolutely endless variety of ways people of the same faith choose to express themselves in worship.
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