Two different churches, but I spent time at church both Saturday and Sunday this weekend (which had become a rarity for me).
I was reminded yesterday while at the retreat given by Fr. Michael Oleksa of one reason why I love the Orthodox church: the belief in the salvation of the whole world, not just human beings (like the tradition I came out of as a child believes). The whole creation. God so loved *the world.* Not just humans, but animals, plants, rocks, trees, everything. And we are all saved together, not individually. This is why I love my church. We also discussed with him the ideas that fasting, which is what the church is doing right now during the Nativity fast, would be best adapted to the individual culture it finds itself in. In Alaska, where Fr. Michael lives, the food that is cheap or even free is meat. Fruits and vegetables are only come by at a premium. To say that Orthodox Christians should only eat the most expensive foods during a fast is a little crazy, bordering on total financial ruin for some families, and certainly is not making use of local foods.
Fr. Michael also talked extensively on adapting to the culture which we are evangelizing, rather than expecting that culture to adapt to us (as has been done by missionaries in the past and present). He told us many stories of the Alaskan native American people, and rather than seeing them as pagan and heathen and we must teach them the right way, he sees them as illustrating, beautifully, the love of God and the way we should be in the world. I love that.
Alas; because I don't love everything about how my local parish plays out, and I am not accepted by my own church currently, I attend the Episcopal church sometimes. And today I was reminded that I love imperfection. Okay, I don't always experience it as love. I was irritated that the usually perfect service at the cathedral was marred. The first reader stumbled a lot. The second reader obviously had laryngitis or something affecting his speaking voice which was very distracting. Even the new priest was distracting--her singing voice is not up to the par I am used to in a good priest. But even as I was bitching in my own mind about these things, I reminded myself that, hey, isn't this what I believe in? I believe that all of God's people have a place in the participation of God's liturgy. We don't have to be perfect. This is what I believe, that our best attempts at worshiping God are good in God's sight. Even if I sometimes have to remind myself.