I've been visiting different churches every Sunday trying to find a new church home for my time here at seminary. Today, a group of us went to St. Gregory's of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. I've never been to any other Episcopal service before, but I'm pretty sure this was not typical of what one would "normally" look like. It had a lot of similarities actually to the Russian Orthodox service that I went to about a month ago with all of it's brightly colored icons, chanting and incense. The main room was extremely colorful with pictures of "saints" painted on the upper half of the walls. I'm not sure what the Episcopal definition of a saint is, or if St. Gregory's definition might be a little different from the rest of the denomination, but they included pictures of Anne Frank, Malcom X and Lady Godiva. Now, I don't have any problems with those people, but as far as I know, they aren't typically referred to as saints.
The service involved gongs, incense, singing, hugging, greetings, batik umbrellas, wine, chanting, chimes, scripture readings, personal sharing, a sermon, quiet time, and what more or less felt like slow motion Greek dancing. It was total sensory overload. I don't think there was anything wrong with the service per se, but for me, everything was so strange and so different from what I was used to that I couldn't really get into the worship service. I felt more like an anthropologist observing the rituals of an exotic people than a person going to church for a sunday morning worship service. I'm not saying they should change anything; it all seems really cool and innovative and is probably very rewarding and meaningful for those people who are used to it, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. I'm very glad that I went, and I'll probably end up going again just to see if my second experience is any different from the first, but what I really need is a good old contemporary worship service with a praise band and some energy. Everyone is different and everyone has different worship needs. It just so happens that my worship needs involve a guitar and some modern day musical arrangements.