Traveling gives me glimpses of a variety of church styles. I remember my first Russian Orthodox service, designed to express mystery and majesty. The service goes on three to four hours, with worshipers entering and leaving at will. No one invites congregants to "pass the peace" or "greet the folks around you with a smile." They stand—there are no pews—and watch the professionals, who are very professional indeed.I did not understand a word of the service, but then I learned that none of the other congregants did either: Russian services are conducted in Old Slavonic, which only the priests understand. In Egypt I attended a service conducted in a Coptic language that none but the priests could speak. Whereas publishers in the U.S. bring out a new version of the Bible every six months or so, in much of the world worshipers can't understand a single word read to them from the pulpit. Seeker-sensitive churches in the U.S. even target worship services toward specific age groups, hence the "Gen X churches" springing up in warehouses and strip malls. These tend to dispense with formalities and reduce worship to praise music, announcements, and a "teaching." Some Gen X churches innovate with dramas or "object lessons" that make the Bible come alive. I watched a thousand young people sit spellbound as their pastor splattered a costumed "priest" with blood and made him hold a stack of firewood throughout the sermon to demonstrate the tasks of the Levites. As one of the most religious countries on earth, the U.S. offers something for everyone. Some Armenian churches here conduct worship in a language and style unchanged in a millennium. At a Christian Reformed church near Chicago, when I inquired if I could speak from the platform ...1
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