I spent 10 wonderful years as part of a seeker-friendly Baptist community that offered me much love, sound teaching and good fellowship. Worship services were a combination of contemporary praise and worship music done well and old hymns such as How Great Thou Art. The centrepiece was the sermon, which was engaging. Communion was once a month, with little glasses of grape juice and small cubes of white bread passed out to each person. Then, we consumed the bread and the grape juice at the same time, and often there were moments of powerful silence afterwards, filled with God’s presence. Fellowship afterwards was also great. It was a warm, welcoming place with great leadership that knew how to lovingly take seekers and guide them into deeper conversion.
I am so grateful to that community because I think if I had gone immediately to Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary after my initial adult conversion, I would have been repelled by it. Or maybe it would have been like throwing me into the deep end of the pool without my having a clue how to swim.
Interestingly, on Maundy Thursday, our pastor would read from the Book of Common Prayer! I started attending occasionally some Anglican services nearby because I loved the language, the kneeling, the reverence.
Then, through a friend I found my way to Annunciation. This was what I experienced in the Anglican church on steroids. Morning Prayer and said Mass during the week with such reverence and a sense of prayerful recollection I could hear every word. Then, the splendor of having the Mass sung on Sundays, with incense and marvelous hymns sung in four part harmony.
Even back in my Baptist days, I had an intuitive inkling of Real Presence—maybe it was my Orthodox infant chrismation kicking in—and it used to annoy me when people would take their little empty glasses of grape juice and put them on the floor. Even if you believed the juice was only a symbol, it seemed disrespectful. But at Annunciation, the way the priests genuflected before the Blessed Sacrament, the way they meant the prayers rather than rattling them off, the way they processed into the centre aisle to proclaim the Gospel, everything pointed to transcendent truths and sacramental theology that said so much more than mere letters on a page. This was worship and sound catechesis through every gesture. Despite the most humble surroundings—the creaky pews, the red indoor-outdoor carpet, the old gray linoleum, this was like being lifted up to heaven. Time stood still.
Now that we are Catholic, we have no doubts about our sacraments, which boosts everything we had in the days before the Ordinariates up by orders of magnitude. Yet, all that we had beforehand —all the reverence and beauty of worship that is distinctly Anglican—we were able to bring into the Catholic Church with us.