Here is the Church Here is the Steeple: the Traditionalist Pathway

This post is part of a series exploring different ways to connect with God.

Peace be with you. And also with you.

The summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college I decided to join a Summer Mission Team sponsored by my church. I was appointed to a team that traveled around a few central states to lead Vacation Bible Schools. In eight weeks I traveled with my team of  six girls to six different cities. We led VBS’s of varying sizes, had water carnivals, led worship services and devotions, preached, sang, served in emergency disaster services, and spent a lot of time crammed into a van. But there was one thing that stayed consistent every day of that long and tiring summer: my daily devotions. Every morning I began my day by reading a chapter in the New Testament, and every evening I ended by reading Psalm 27.

I haven’t always been consistent with daily Bible reading, but that that one summer, it was the one thing that grounded me and kept me from going completely crazy. Every day the words of that same Psalm reminded me “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” When I was discouraged or frustrated with the ministry, the work, or even my teammates, I was reminded to “wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

The traditions of worship can be a comforting peace in the midst of the turmoil of life.

What is it

The traditionalist pathway is loving God through ritual, symbol, and sacrifice.

Rituals are part of a liturgical pattern. They can be as broad as the Lenten and Advent seasons that mark the church calendar reminding us to prepare for the celebration of the birth and death and resurrection of Christ. They can be as specific as the tradition of praying before a meal. They include daily Bible reading and prayer, reading a specific passage daily, reciting memorized prayers. Some denominations use rituals as part of their worship service, from the processional entrance of the clergy, to the echoed prayers, to the chanting, kneeling, and praying.

Symbols are representations used to remind us of important spiritual truths. “Symbols have nothing to do with saving us, but they have everything to do with realizing the effect of that salvation on our everyday lives” (Sacred Pathways, p. 94). Common Christian symbols include the Bible, a cross, a fish, a dove, an anchor, baptism, and communion. My denomination has it’s own set of symbols including a flag. You might adopt a personal symbol such as a ring or a tattoo that constantly reminds you of God’s presence in your life.

Sacrifice keeps our expressions of worship rooted in reality. Common examples of sacrifice include tithing and fasting. It is a way of reminding us that what we have is only a gift from God

Notable Examples

Moses and Aaron are examples of traditional worshipers as they follow the sacrifice and worship codes given by God in the priestly duties and building the tabernacle as a place of worship.

Actions and Reflections

The traditional pathway was simple to plan, as traditional worship and personal quiet time was what I had been most accustomed to. I decided to read a Psalm every morning and evening for a week as well as read a Scripture passage and a devotional every day. I also decided to bring back the tradition of praying before all my meals.

What I observed from this experience was that the old traditions of my youth were comforting like an old quilt or the shawl we used to steal from my mother when she left it on a chair. There are a lot of calm memories attached to that old shawl. The other thing I noticed was that the old traditions were easily dropped and forgotten. The evening psalm lasted almost the entire week. The morning psalm lasted a few days along with the daily Scripture and devotion. The meal prayers were forgotten almost immediately.

There is a lot I like about the comforting pattern of traditional worship. But I did not like the dependence on keeping those patterns. Again, a worship pathway where I found some connection to God, but not my main one.

How about you? Do you enjoy the patterns of traditional worship?

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