Monday, May 19, 2008

Seeing how the other side lives

Yesterday afternoon, I had the privilege of attending the installation of the Rev. Heather James as pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church, over in Tacoma. Heather is the former youth pastor of Lakebay Community Church, and her parents are faithful members of Lakebay, and an invaluable support to my ministry there.

It was my first Presbyterian installation, so I was a little excited to experience it all. Unfortunately, I was about 15 minutes late, due to some bad directions (and the ubiquitous Sunday Driver we were stuck behind trying to get off the Key Peninsula). And so I walked in to a service already in progress. And as I walked in, I was a little surprised to see 6 young Cambodian ladies performing a traditional Cambodian dance, in full regalia, no less.

If I hadn't also seen the Rev. Jim Ptak (pastor of Grace Harbor Covenant Church) sitting near the back, I would have thought I'd walked into the wrong place. But as it turns out, Westminster hosts a vibrant Cambodian ministry, and this was their "welcome" to Heather.

So the service went on, a fairly traditional church service with hymns and readings, the charge to Heather and the congregations, and no less than three sermons along the way. I mentioned to Jim that I only had one sermon at my installation. Which points to one difference between Covenant and Presbyterian installations. Presbys invite many of the other Presby pastors in the area to come take part; Covenanters pretty much have the superintendent (or even the associate superintendent) show up and do it all. I appreciated having the "cloud of witnesses" present - the large showing of pastors gives visible proof of the unity of the larger body. On the other hand, I think I was fine with the single sermon at my own installation.

Finally, there was the laying on of hands, to which all ministers of Word and Sacrament were invited. So I made my way up, with Jim following, and we joined in the circle, two Covenanters shining the Covenant light into that Presbyterian crowd. Our little subterfuge, I felt. (Later, I told Heather if she got into trouble over Presbyterian doctrinal issues, she could blame Jim and me for "muddying the pure Reformed stream.") And then the congregation led into "How Great Thou Art," a hymn penned within the early Swedish Covenant movement. So even there, in that great Presbyterian Liturgical Moment, the Covenant Church was making itself known (even if nobody but Jim and I knew it. . .).

And then of course, the whole thing was followed up in the church basement with the traditional church meal of jello, pasta salad, cheese and meat sandwiches, and red punch. Plus a Cambodian dish or two.

All in all, it simply proved to me that we all have much more in common than we have differences. And the Rev. Heather James is in a good spot for a growing ministry, even if she has to affirm all that Reformed theology.


Anonymous said...

the joke is, I have Bipolar Disorder II. LOL!!!! I greatly appreciate your comments at WT. I appreciate your positive approach to Christ and your attitude of grace in all things...even Aaron. LIMH. Love that guy. So, guess I'll go back and talk to myself again. LOL!!!

Anonymous said...

sorry, one more comment (for today). :) Is Mennonite Bretheren Biblical Seminary anything like Fresno Pacific University...? They're run by the Mennonite Bretheren. Are they the same? My brother graduated from FPU.
^mark onthe 3

Matt said...

Coming from the Presbyterian stream myself, it's funny to see your take on it all.
Love "that great Presbyterian Liturgical Moment". Nice.
I was an inch from Presbyterian ordination, but that inch was going to cost me a long time and frustration in the call process. It's a long story I'll bore you with sometime.

Sean said...

"And then of course, the whole thing was followed up in the church basement with the traditional church meal of jello, pasta salad, cheese and meat sandwiches, and red punch. Plus a Cambodian dish or two."

They cooked some of the Cambodians and served them? How horrible!