March 26, 2007

Remember Your Worship Roots?
by Glenn R. Molina, Director of Worship

I’ve been at Altadena Baptist for almost 30 years now, but I haven’t been a card-carrying Baptist for my entire life. When my parents immigrated to the States from the Philippines in the late 1960’s, their only church experience was that of the Catholic Church (like all good Filipinos). I was never confirmed in that Church, but I still have strong memories of attending Mass and experiencing the care and compassion of various priests and nuns at some of the Catholic schools I attended in my primary years.

It was in 1979 that my father and I were first introduced to Altadena Baptist Church. I remember my dad talking about how it was a major adjustment getting used to an entirely different way of worshiping on a Sunday morning. All he had learned about corporate worship had been shaped by over 40 years of being a Catholic, and it took him quite a while to adjust to what he considered “acceptableâ€? church behavior. The hymns, prayers, and sermon styles at ABC were a far cry from the liturgies and homilies he was used to. (I even have a faint memory of one of our first communion experiences at ABC, with my dad awkwardly holding the cup of juice and having no idea what to do.) However, in the final years of his life, though he wasn’t able to attend our church regularly due to issues of health and transportation, he considered ABC his church home—the place where he felt most comfortable spending time with God on a Sunday morning, and the place where he felt truly accepted by a body of believers, regardless of past mistakes or personal shortcomings.

We talk often about the ethnic and cultural diversity that shapes our congregation, but we should also remember that the members of our congregation come from a wide range of denominational experiences. We have had Presbyterians and Pentecostals, Anglicans and Foursquares (Foursquarians?), Quakers and non-denominationals in our midst. People representing the three main branches of Christianity—Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy—have descended upon our little church and made it their spiritual home over the years. Many of those individuals have selflessly set aside their former practices or ideas about church, the things that have made them feel “comfortableâ€? in the past, in order to become an active part of our diverse community here at ABC. Even those who have been members of this church for many years have experienced a similar journey as our understanding of worship has grown and evolved over the past few decades.

Our rich denominational background continues to guide us in the Worship Department in our examination of how we best express ourselves corporately in worship. Of course, it’s impossible to acknowledge over one hundred different experiences of church life from Sunday to Sunday. But we continually try to be aware of the rich heritage of worship experiences among our church family, as well as listening to how God desires us to demonstrate His love and Gospel to future generations. It continues to be a work in process; something that mirrors the process that God’s Spirit works in each of our lives, always in continual transformation as we seek to live according to His will and His ways.

For our Palm Sunday service this coming Sunday, we will experience worship through a template unfamiliar to some of us—worship through a liturgy. A liturgy is a pre-determined set of readings and prayers found in denominations such as the Episcopal or Catholic church. This liturgy will be accented with other congregational activities that will express the sentiments of Holy Week, and will climax with the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper (done in the traditional ABC style). It is an amalgamation of age-old church tradition and contemporary expression. It will be a bit of a stretch for most of us, but will hopefully also be a good exercise of recognizing some of Christianity’s history (with a slightly post-modern spin). Most of all, it will allow us to focus on the solemn reality of the events leading up to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We hope you will come to church this Sunday with open minds and open hearts as we thank God for His mercy and the repentance we receive from Him through his Son, Jesus Christ.