Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday is for Relaxing... or, Why I Found Myself Running on the Treadmill at 4:57

Today I woke up with regularity: 5am, 6am, 7am... I was awaiting a grocery order from (with my roommate Rebecca) and the delivery was scheduled between 7 and 9am. In anticipation, I found myself waking up without an alarm so regularly, I could audition for the role as the little child who says, "Cuckoo!" in The Sound of Music song!

We went to church at Christ Our Shepherd, an inter-denominational church on North Carolina Ave., SE. It was definitely a new experience. I had sort of imagined it would be like Chapel at Gordon, with a call to order and a Scripture reading, followed by the sermon. But when the lead guitarist shouted into his microphone, "Okay everyone, we're going to get started" and proceeded to strum his G and A minor chords with gusto as the words popped up on the screen, I started. Where was Andene reading us a few verses from Psalms? Where was Greg Carmer opening with a word of prayer? It was so different from my regular church in Danvers that I gave up my mental list of comparisons after about 5 minutes.

While I can't say I felt at home in the service - I spent most of the worship time squinting at the bright blue screen and humming roughly 1/16 of the melodies correctly - I did realize I have a lot to learn about what it means to worship on Sunday. Is it, for example, more important for me to feel "free and comfortable" in the presence of God, or to be humbled and overwhelmed by His power and majesty? Do I come to church because it is good for my soul, or because worship and honor are due to the Lord? Is a sermon about encouragement, exegesis, or excursions into the Word of God? Where do the sacraments fit with the songs? How does Holy Communion connect to the weekly Meet and Greet your neighbor?

I have much to learn from the congregations in this city: from Ebenezer's Coffee House (the church is downstairs, apparently) to DC Baptist, to the Catholic churches, to the Church of the Holy Resurrection in Baltimore, MD): the one thing that's clear to me now is that I am the learner, not the teacher.

And all of this was running through my mind as I sweated my way back to the Dellenback Center around 3:00pm. I thought Sunday was for relaxing, not asking yourself perturbing and probing questions about relationships between denominations and worship styles! I went up to my room and proceeded to flop on my bed, fully prepared to spend the rest of the day exactly where I was: at ease.

But when my apartment mate Jaclyn came back at 4:30 from her run down 8th St., my legs started to poke me. "Hilary, you should be running now" they seemed to say. Then my stomach chimed in, "Seriously, get on that treadmill and go!" and finally my arms propelled me out of my bed and into my sneakers. So at 4:57, when I could have been happily munching Goldfish and enjoying an episode of Leverage on TNT, I was on the treadmill for 30 minutes. I became the treadmill queen. I was fierce, I was dedicated: I was running a dinky 2 miles and sweating every step of the way.

What does this have to do with Sunday services and relaxing, you might ask? Simple: It's easier to lie in bed and "relax" on a Sunday afternoon rather than labor and pant yourself into oblivion on a piece of circulating rubber. It's easier to eat the bag of pretzels than to try and burn 200 calories. It's easier to say, "I'll think about church denominations later" than to engage your questions now, with your whole heart and mind. But just as getting on the treadmill eventually becomes more rewarding than the bag of pretzels (I'm hoping any day now), so too will our engagement with questions of church, worship, and tradition be more rewarding than merely sitting there in our stylish Sunday best and watching the flies land on the hat of the lady in front of us.

Goodnight all,

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