Don’t Run for Pope

Here’s my tip of the day – don’t run for Pope.

In high school, four of us were sitting around and bored so decided that I should run for Pope. The slogan was “2000 years is long enough, it’s time for a change.” We listed goofy things like public confessions, holy water in convenient six packs, hosts in whole wheat & rye… We printed off a few brochures and gave them to friends.

One of the teachers got a hold of a copy and wasn’t amused. He brought it to the administration and wanted me removed from Honor Society. I convinced the principal it was a joke among friends. That my campaign chair was Jewish kind of supports that concept. Note to self – some people don’t have humor about religion.

So at the risk of getting people riled up again, I’ve been thinking about how we practice our religion. I attended a funeral in a Roman Catholic Church and in a previous life was the principal of a Catholic School. It is definitely high church with lots of hand signals and “private” oral responses. But I know many people who find the repetition and formality comforting.

I have a friend who likes a church service full of liturgy. Lots of reading and repeating, reading and repeating. I’ve been moved by campfire services, wide open services, contemporary services, not so contemporary services, and completely formal services.

So here goes. Why do people care how others practice their religion? How does the formality to informality infringe on how God speaks to and through us?

It’s also been my understanding that the purpose of Christianity is to bring others to faith. So how do new or de-churched people view our services? The priest at the funeral did a good job of coaching us to stand, sit, kneel, etc. But the worship has a lot of practices that would be foreign (and frankly probably a bit scary) to someone new. Most churches I’ve been to have their own “secret practices” that must be intimidating to someone new or someone sticking their toe in the water of this thing called church. We need to be better about making our congregations for others and not for ourselves.

Now if you are not amused with anything I’ve said, just remember – what does this guy know? For crying out loud, he once ran for Pope.

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