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Thinking the Faith, Praying the Faith, Living the Faith is written by the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship.

Thinking, praying, and living the faith is at the core of ministry in the Office of Theology and Worship. In the following videos, learn more about what thinking, praying, and living the faith means to the leadership of the Office of Theology and Worship. Discover why it matters and what difference it makes in our lives, work, and worship.  

Charles Wiley  
Barry Ensign-George
David Gambrell
Christine Hong 
Karen Russell

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April 8, 2011

Practicing Presbyterian

It’s interesting to me that what makes the difference between being a nominal and faithful religious devotee is practice.  “He's a practicing Jew,” someone will say, or “I’m a practicing Roman Catholic.”  Not just a Jew or a Catholic, but a practicing one.  The distinction is important to such speakers.

Last week I went on retreat at St. Meinrad Archabbey in the-middle-of-nowhere Indiana, somewhere between Possum Junction and Santa Claus.  (I can’t make stuff this good up.) 

As I sat chanting the daily office with the monks and then wandered around the grounds puzzling over all the Marian shrines and trying to figure out just why folks pray to Mary, I realized that there are certain practices that make Roman Catholics Roman Catholics that I won’t be able to get without . . . well . . . practice.   (Which, I must confess, I wasn’t interested in doing.) 

I love being at St. Meinrad’s praying with my monk friends.  As much as I appreciate most aspects of the Roman Catholic tradition, though, I am not Roman Catholic.  I am Presbyterian.   

But if what makes Roman Catholics Roman Catholics is not just doctrine, but certain practices, I wonder: what practices make us practicing Presbyterians? 

I could say that our worship of the Triune God first and foremost in all things is a Presbyterian practice, but that’s surely not uniquely Presbyterian.  The same is true of reading scripture and many of our other practices, including our celebration of baptism and eucharist and communal theological debate.   Faith’s engagement in the world is one of our Presbyterian practices.  While we’re not the only ones involved in such work, we may be ones so involved in it that we are most at risk of losing our Christian uniqueness in our embeddedness in the world.  I could say that our prayer for illumination is a unique worship practice—in theory, if not reality.  Singing the psalms has been one of our historical practices.  I’d like to think that daily prayer, in one form or another, is one of our practices.  Our ecumenical commitments and our desire to work together in the belief that the Spirit is at work in all, through all, and with all, means that we have to have a committee to do everything of importance; surely, these are Presbyterian practices.  Our polity is perhaps what most makes us practicing Presbyterians with our presbyterian form of government growing out of our theological beliefs.  However, there are those who jokingly suggest that calling for the question is a premier Presbyterian practice.    

But I wonder what the church thinks.  If saying the Rosary is something that makes someone a practicing Catholic and sitting shivah is something that makes someone a practicing Jew, what is it that makes someone a practicing Presbyterian?    

Categories: Faith, Interfaith dialogue and relationships, Music, Religion, Spirituality , Theology, Worship