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I like going to church at 7:45 a.m.

That’s when St. Matthew’s Episcopal has its Rite I service, which is advertised as “quiet” and “traditional.”

I like it because there are about 25 people there, and when you exchange the peace, you hit pretty much everybody.

I like it because the service is 45 minutes long—not that I’m in a rush or anything, but you can get a lot done in that time if you’re not feeling the pressure of recreating the wheel from scratch each Sunday and trying to get “everything in.”

I like it because there is no music.

Let me go on record that I like church music and I connect with a wide range of genres. And what I don’t like I keep my mouth shut about, because there are people around me who do like it, and no one died to make me the church boss.

Anyway, no music is a change from what I have always experienced in non-liturgical church settings, where you are hit with a wall of music as soon as you walk in the door, and all the rest that happens seems to be centered around largely performance based music. That’s not a judgment, but just how I experienced it.

Without music, “all there is” is the reading Scripture, prayer, confessions, Eucharist, and the trademark 12 minute homily (which encourages getting to the point quickly and effectively, praise God, but I digress).

Without music, I find I focus more on the readings and prayers–I hang on to them, so to speak, because I’m not waiting for them to be done so we can get to the singing. What I’m doing at the moment becomes the point.

So, for me, it’s a nice change not to have music. We do sing he doxology, though. Gotta sing the doxology.

I guess what all this amounts to is that Rite I is a change of pace for me as a lifelong church goer. If I were raised on this, a lot of singing would be my change of pace–which I know is the experience others have had.

All of which is to say there are multiple ways of doing church, and God can be found in any of them. And maybe changing it up a bit now and then helps keep us out of our God-ruts.


Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.