Honestly, although I am missionary, I spend very little time doing anything generally associated with “missionaries.” I don’t try to convert people, I rarely talk about my relationship with God, I don’t lead bible study or preach… ever. Since I spend Sundays with the migrants, I really didn’t start regularly attending worship until early November. All this to say that my experience so far in Hong Kong has not led to any deep spiritual revelations or discovery about religion (but I have 10 months left so who knows what will happen). However, I have begun to develop a deep sense of pride and thanksgiving of being a member of the United Methodist Church.
I’ve attended a few Anglican services here and noticed a number of differences. The biggest difference is the lack of participation from the lay people. (Lay people means all of us regular folk who are not ordained) The UMC prides itself of the strength of its lay leadership, and at my home church, the lay leadership directs the path for the congregation in a number of ways. The UMC also encourages lay people to participate in worship service by reading scripture, serving communion, singing, and even preaching. I learned yesterday that the Anglican church only allows ordained priests to serve communion bread. Lay people may serve wine because they don’t touch it (I don’t really want to discuss the theological under-pinings of this practice because I don’t know them…I just want to highlight the effect of participation on the community)
One of my favorite parts of training with Global Ministries this summer was at most worship services, we served communion to one another in random order. After the blessing, the minister invited us to the communion table, in no particular order, to serve each other. We broke off a piece a bread and gave it with the cup of grape juice to the person behind us. I felt both humbled by this experience and connected to the other members of my mission intern class. There is so much power in a close friend saying to you: “Katie, this is the body of Christ given for you.” We all have different strengths, different goals, different reasons for joining this program, but we are all equally loved by God.
Yesterday, the power of this difference struck me. Receiving communion from church members allows me to feel more connected to community and helps me to understand the act of communion a little more.
I never knew about this distinction among Protestant dominations until yesterday, but as I learn more about the UMC and its emphasis on certain social justice and certain spiritual practices over others, I become happier and more grateful that I was raised in the UMC.