So if you’ve been listening to my podcast, Oh What a Beautiful Morning!, then this is old news to you, but I’m in Denver, Colorado right now!
I’m out here for a shoot, and in my downtime, I’m just enjoying the mountain air in the Mile High City!
Well, this weekend, I had some much appreciated time to myself.
So what did I do?
I went to church…twice.
Now, I know – seems kind of a bit…much. But here’s the deal. I have heard so many amazing things about Red Rocks Church. I was at this nonprofit event on Thursday in NYC and had an incredible conversation with one of the organization’s founders about Red Rocks in Denver, and how I should check it out when I was there this week.
So I did.
Here’s the catch.
Being a dutiful Catholic, I didn’t want to miss Mass either. SO on Saturday evening, I went to mass at Holy Ghost Church, and then Red Rocks on Sunday.
And honestly, I could not have had two more different, and yet equally moving experiences in my life.
I mean, wow.
Spoiler alert, I ended both experiences in tears.
First of all, walking into Holy Ghost, I knew that I was going to be having a meaningful date with Jesus, as right when I walked in, I was greeted by a huge image of the Divine Mercy. And you know my affinity for that, and its “Jesus I Trust in You” message. So already I knew I was in the right place.
It wasn’t anything flashy. Humble in fact, as one of the oldest Catholic churches in Denver, founded in 1905. A sparse – mostly older – Saturday 4pm crowd was attended to by a lovely priest who gave a homily about mortification – aka the spiritual discipline of putting the flesh to death. Not exactly a sparkling, feel good topic.
And as I was about to tune out, he began to describe the process of pruning and blooming.
And quite honestly, at first my ears only perked up because of the mention of my book’s name sake: Bloom.
But he began talking about how a gardener has to prune the flowers and the branches in order for the plant to grow and produce even more blooms and shoots. That, although hard to do, it is necessary for a healthy and vibrant plant. And in fact, the pruning is done by a loving and caring gardener, wanting the best for his plants.
And it was in that moment that I fully appreciated how my past, and everything I went through with my anorexia and ulcerative colitis, and my mom’s stroke – those were all pruning seasons. And that I need to let go of the, admittedly anger – I can sometimes feel about those seasons of my life. Because God knew what He was doing. That pruning, was actually done in love, so that I could become fully the person I am, blooming with full capacity.
So walking out of mass, I felt completely revived. Having gained a new perspective.
Little did I know what was waiting for me in the morning.
Friends. I’m not going to lie. Amongst “diehard Catholics,” there is a bit of a stigma about the “Big Box” non-denominational Christian churches. The trendy sermon themes, and the coffee-touting patrons, ready to be entertained in cushy chairs by a too-hip pastor with Justin Bieber-hair, that shops at Zara, or Hollister. Catholics love to snark on it. We really do, and admittedly, I have partaken in many a conversation about just that. Zingers included.
So when I showed up to Red Rocks, with the free specialty coffee and donuts, and the concert-style worship music from a man with a perfectly groomed handlebar mustache, a pastor in ripped jeans that were tighter than mine, and a graffiti background/skateboarding-vibe sermon series called “Freestyle” – I could feel my snarky inner Catholic checking off every stereotype box there was.
But after about 30 seconds inside the building, I realized just how dead wrong those stereotypes were. (Surprise, surprise.) And how — real talk — Catholics really have a lot to learn.
I mean, wow. The Spirit was SO ALIVE inside that Vietnamese-grocery-store-turned-church.
I loved it so much I almost stayed for a second service.
I walked in, and the first thing I noticed was that not only was everyone super attractive, but I would say that 70-80% of the congregation was my age. Mid twenties to mid thirties. And they all wanted to be there!
And within 5 minutes of me being there, I was warmly greeted by – no kidding – six different “staff” greeters, many my age – all genuinely glad to see me, and welcomed to their community.
And it’s not like it was a small little gathering where I stuck out as an obvious “newbie” — although my “Sunday best” Lilly Pulitzer attire kinda stood out among the “come-as-you-are” athleisure wearing counterparts
The church was literally packed. It was standing room only. Probably 3 or 4 thousand people. The worship music was truly radio-quality — playing current worship songs that are on the radio. And I know I knocked on the handlebar mustache man, but boy could strum a six-string, lemme tell ya! The crowd was so into it. And so was I.
But here’s the thing that really was what made it truly special.
And maybe this says more about where I am in my life, but the sermon was so personal. So life applicable. And so moving.
You walked away from that hour and a half heart-fest feeling so incredibly loved. SO loved by our Father. SO welcomed by a community of imperfect people just like me. And SO on fire for Jesus.
By the end of the sermon, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Then they brought in the band – people continued crying like babies, and singing their hearts out to Jesus.
That God-high stuck with me for the rest of the day. I can only imagine what that would be like to go back to the well like that, week after week.
My two church experiences could not have been more different. And yet, both brought me close to the heart of Jesus. And it revealed a gross prejudice I had been harboring, that frankly I need to put in check.
As far as I’m concerned, God is God. And no one form of worship is better than the other.
And frankly, -let’s call it what it is – the judgement from both sides of the “worship line” are doing nothing but create walls instead of bridges.
Because both sides are guilty. The Catholics think the “Big Box” churches are too “entertainment based” faith-periences and the “Big Box” churches think Catholics worship wafers and are too rigidly stuck in tradition, lacking a personal relationship with Jesus.
And you know what – both are wrong.
And in fact, I’d like to submit that both have something to learn from the other. IF we could stop speaking past each other, and constructively come together to talk about one another’s strengths and areas of improvement.
Catholics are reeling, feeling the threat of parishioners being “poached” by the Big Box, but how about we all come together, and compare notes? Because clearly, they’re doing something right.
Does this mean I’m going to abandon Catholicism and jump ship to Hillsong NYC or something else where young people abound (and I could probably meet a husband)? Absolutely not. I love the beauty in the history and tradition of our faith, and the meaning behind it, (namely the Eucharistic miracle and the sacraments) which make it so truly special and sacred.
But, I am going to try to build more bridges between the two. Because at the end of the day, we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ, and we’ve all got the same goal and the same God.
OK – that’s all for tonight – See you tomorrow for my Bachelorette Breakdown w/ BBB Podcast!
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