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Cracking the church code

WHILE AT university I dabbled in the study of world religions. I remember someone from my Church questioning me about it; he wanted to know why I wasn’t studying the Old Testament.

The truth is that, as a 19-year-old, the Old Testament did not interest me as much as learning how my faith fitted into a world full of different beliefs. I needed to not only understand what I believed, but why I believed it.

Throughout my life I have been fortunate to attend many different worship services. It is always interesting to see how faith is expressed by different people.

When I was in primary school my family had an Egyptian woman live with us who was Coptic Orthodox. We attended a worship service with her to meet her Priest.

It seemed so far from what I knew of Christian worship.

The swinging incense made me cough, I was transfixed by the Priest in his long black robes, tall hat and long beard, and I had no idea when to sit, stand or kneel.

I’m not even sure I knew at the time that it was a Christian service. It was so far from what I had experienced in a suburban Uniting Church.

Thinking back, the Muslim service I attended with Uniting Church minister Garth Read at the Bald Hills Mosque last year almost seemed more familiar than the Coptic Orthodox service.

There are so many different traditions it is easy to forget that some people in our midst may not know the code to our worship.

As a student at a Lutheran school I received quite a shock one day when I took a sip of communion grape juice only to discover it was port.

We can learn so much from each other, both ecumenically and in an interfaith setting, about breaking down assumptions and being clearer about what we believe and how we worship.

The sooner we can eliminate church speak and coded worship, the sooner new people will feel at home in our pews.