Like a lot of other students here, I was raised attending a PCA church. My dad is a PCA pastor, so I am pretty PCA through and through. Growing up in the PCA, I’ve noticed a trend in myself and others to more or less elevate the Reformed tradition above other Bible believing, gospel preaching traditions. We tend to see ourselves as superior than other denominations for some reason; maybe because we’re more familiar with certain doctrines than others or because we view our worship as more sophisticated than other denominations’. Whatever the reason may be, we can tend to think of our own tradition as the best way to worship God and see other denominations and traditions as sub par.
However, when I began coming to Covenant my freshman year, my brother Andrew and I decided to visit the Anglican Church of the Redeemer here in Chattanooga. I was a little nervous before going because, I admit, I really did not know much anything about the Anglican Church. I was expecting a church that taught radically different doctrines than what I believed to be true and a very strange, ritualistic type of worship, but I did my best to go in with an open mind.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really liked the service at Redeemer that Sunday and wanted to go back. The liturgy in the service was very different and unlike any church service I had ever been in: the congregation crossed themselves, did a lot of responsive readings, bowed their heads each time the name of Jesus was mentioned, and so on. The sermon was Christ centered and gospel focused and I left feeling very filled by the whole experience. The people there were so kind and welcoming to me and Andrew. I knew this congregation was just as much a part of the body of Christ as my congregation back home was.
It got me thinking about my view of church worship and what I thought it should look like. Growing up in the PCA, I’ve never been one for lifting my hands during singing, clapping in church, or saying “amen!” in the middle of a sermon. Most of my life I would even have looked down on those who do those types of things (you don’t see people doing these things in the Anglican church either, to be clear, but it just got me thinking). I began to realize that just because a form of worship looks different or has a heavier focus on a different doctrine than you’re used to, it does not make it worse or less legitimate. It is simply different. It is still easy for me to be cynical at times, but I just remind myself that we all worship the same God, no matter what church denomination we are a part of.
I would encourage anyone who reads this to visit a church that is from a tradition different from where they come from. I did my freshman year and I’m glad I did. It made me realize the pedestal I had placed the PCA on, and how I truly was skeptical of the legitimacy of other traditions. Ever since then I have become a regular attender of Redeemer. Some weeks I will go to Northshore Fellowship, but for the most part, I continue to worship at Redeemer, an Anglican church. I am not saying everyone needs to leave the PCA by any means, I just think we need to remember that the body of Christ is much bigger and more diverse than we might be inclined to think.