We sat still and chatted in the sanctuary, talking until the house lights went down and the Revoice conference officially began. The worship service stood out to me immediately. The songs were beautiful hymns, almost of a classical nature. Even the praise songs had more of a hymn-like feel to them, more than what I was used to.
If my combination of homoerotic desires as well as Jesus’ unfailing love had not surfaced before, they certainly presented themselves now.
This is a lot more formal than what I’m used to in my home church, I thought to myself. And I love it!
Perhaps it was the touch of melancholy in me that many other “Side B” Christians also feel, or simply being a disabled man, or maybe even a combination of the two — the fact that I have often felt both a physical and mental peace listening to classical music.
Whatever it was, my soul felt ministered to in a previously unknown way.
The powerful worship didn’t stop once the service concluded each night either. As my fellow YOBBERS and I carpooled back to the hotel, we joined in singing along with recordings of Celtic hymns and discussing the various theologies behind them. As I rode in the car, I found myself thinking about how old these hymns were, as well as the age of the topics discussed earlier at the conference and now in the car: the holiness of Christ, His atonement, and my sinful condition, among other topics.
I experienced a similar phenomenon at YOB’s two virtual retreats as well as my only YOB camp retreat. Though less of a formal environment, our retreat’s worship and, really, the retreat in general had something of a liturgical “feel” to it — something I have come to love and, indeed, long for, whatever the church setting.
At our camp retreat, a guided meditation along with our worship held that liturgical feel. In fact, I’m still using the meditation app used at the retreat for my own nightly meditations.
These were not my first experiences with liturgical worship, but on similar occasions they did not seem as profound, or I simply had not given them such needed attention.
As a child, I was drawn to the gothic church structures I encountered in the old towns where I spent most of my boyhood years. At that time, however, these art forms were just that — magnificent art. It wasn’t until adulthood that I began to understand the beauty and suffering that these works truly embodied.
For example, in my childhood church home, worship and Jesus were treated in a more modern sense and actually had a “plainness” to them. I say this not as a criticism, but rather a simple observation. And to be completely honest, I was not overly bothered by this fact.
Am I now drawn to “higher-order” worship simply because it is different from what I grew up with? I’m not sure.
When I began to realize my same-sex desires, I honestly wondered how others had dealt with such temptations throughout our 2,000-year Christian history. What I found, and am still finding, is that our Christian history is rich with examples of individuals who have not only made intense sacrifices (sexually related and otherwise), but also many times were spurred on by great church liturgies, prayers, and hymns.
It’s not simply the meter or prose that draws me and others to these liturgies; it’s more the eternal truths of Jesus’ love and our response of both worship and sacrifice.
These thoughts stirred in my mind until one morning while I was listening to a podcast on my commute. The guest was a gentleman who had been raised as a charismatic Protestant and was now Catholic. While I personally did not experience such a profound shift (at least not yet), the discussion did increase my desire to lean more into contemplating how I could incorporate at least some liturgical practices into my daily life.
What I’ve found (and this is just my story), is that various practices such as reading liturgical prayers, fasting, and immersing myself in hymns have acted in a twofold way: it’s made me painfully aware of how inadequate I am as a sinner who struggles not only with homosexuality but a host of sins; and secondly and simultaneously, it’s made me ever so aware of Jesus’ constant love and forgiveness.
Reflecting back on Ash Wednesday of this year, I am thinking of how we as Christians embrace a life of sacrifice whether we identify as Catholic or Protestant, as sexual minorities or sexual majorities. I’m also finding that celibacy as a gay Christian man is more of a gift than a sacrifice and, honestly, I feel more of a call for self-sacrifice because of the gift of celibacy.
Do you have a liturgical faith background? What draws you to liturgical worship and other spiritual practices?